Law enforcers gear up to act on public smoking ban

Apart from stressing the ban on public smoking, the soon-to-be promulgated law governing tobacco control is among other things clearly against vices like the use of children in tobacco and tobacco products business.
A man is engulfed in cigarette fumes in a public place. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.
A man is engulfed in cigarette fumes in a public place. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

Apart from stressing the ban on public smoking, the soon-to-be promulgated law governing tobacco control is among other things clearly against vices like the use of children in tobacco and tobacco products business.

Police Spokesperson Theos Badege, on Tuesday, told The New Times that once promulgated “it will be very important for the public, including bar owners and clientele, to be acquainted with its entire content” as he thinks it will as well be a “very useful and informative law.”

Badege said: “Of course, for us, as ever, we shall enforce the law. There are provisions, already in the Penal Code that people must be aware of and, apart from that, there will be cases where people seek our help, at whatever time their rights might be violated and we, as expected, will always be at the ready to help.”

The law was passed by Parliament in November last year and duly forwarded to the Office of the President in February, meaning it could be promulgated any time from now.

In a 2004 study, the British Medical Journal said the risks of passive smoking could be twice as bad as previously feared.

Researchers from London’s St George’s Medical School and the Royal Free Hospital found passive smoking increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50-60 per cent.

Smoking lounges


Public places will be required to have a smoking area, with clear notices displayed in Kinyarwanda, English and French stating that smoking is only permitted in that area.

The law will require premise owners or any person offended by a smoker anywhere other than in a designated smoking area to request the offender to cease and show to them a designated smoking area, or call in security personnel.

Any free distribution of tobacco products with intent of advertising them is forbidden.

Violators of the provisions relating to the advertising of tobacco and tobacco products shall be liable to a fine equal to 100 per cent of the value of such advertising. In case where there will be a repeated or habitual relapse of the offence, the fine shall be doubled.

The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 50 per cent of children worldwide are exposed to respiratory infections at home. Tobacco contains more than 400 toxic disease-causing substances.

Article 219 of the Penal Code states that anyone who offers or sells alcoholic beverages or tobacco to a child or involves a child in the sale of such products shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of at least three months but less than six months and a fine of Rwf300,000 to Rwf1,000,000, or one of these penalties. 

“These penalties shall also apply to any person who encourages a child to drink alcoholic beverages or to smoke or to go to bars,” reads part of the clause. 

Article 428 partly states that any person who unlawfully smokes in public and in any other place where many people gather; shall be liable to a fine of Rwf10,000 to Rwf50,000.

Public’s appeal


Even with days only remaining for the law to be ratified, the public remains on the edge as non-smokers, who have borne the brunt of passive smoking, will not wait to see law enforcement in action.

Hilary Butera, a Kigali resident, said: “Smoking in public is an uncouth behaviour I can’t tolerate. I wish the law takes its course very soon.”

“Nothing is impossible in an organised and elite society – if the plastic bag law has been adhered to, when we were all end users, why not the smoking law which only targets a few smokers? They will get ashamed because they will look uncivilised whenever they are seen puffing in public,” Butera added, indicating he trusts law enforcement will succeed in the effort.

Jane Mwangi, a Kenyan residing in Kigali, said: “My view is primarily from domestic smoking, where either of the parents is an active smoker. I was a passive smoker because of my dad and was diagnosed with stomach ulcers at the age of 14.”

“The queerest thing is that he has never suffered from any visible tobacco-related infection.”

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