The anti-smoking Bill was back in Parliament yesterday with MPs discussing the restriction of smoking in public places and its implication on the industry.
This is not the first time the Bill is finding its way to Parliament; it was extensively discussed last year in inconclusive debates, yet the risk smoking poses to the public is well known.
Smoking, the medical profession has told us time and again, is bad for the health of both smokers and passive non-smokers who are unnecessarily exposed to secondhand smoking.
The Bill should seek to protect the passive non-smokers who are exposed to health risks that they don’t deserve, and which are completely unjustified. The debate should, therefore be about lives, not the pleasure of smokers. They have the right to enjoy their puffs as long as they do not pose any danger to the rest of us.
But the restriction should be confined to smoking in public places. That is the starting point. It should extend to protect minors from the habit.
Research conducted by the Ministry of Health has shown that approximately 880,000 Rwandans smoke. Among these, 58.9 percent start smoking between the vulnerable ages of 11 and 15, largely out of imitation and peer pressure.
Obviously the debate will be peppered with talk about the amount of money the cigarette industry contributes to the exchequer. But research in the US, for example, have shown that the amount of money spent on healthcare due to the dangers of smoking is way above what the industry pays in taxes.
In any case, we are not the first country in East Africa or even in Africa to impose the ban. It has been done elsewhere and we deserve no less.
The bottom line is that smoking in public is bad for our health. Are we the only ones seeing such an obvious point?