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Uganda’s Constitutional Court Soundly Rejects British American Tobacco Suit, Upholds Tobacco Control Regulations

Statement of Bintou Camara, Director of Africa Programs at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 28, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – In a resounding victory for health, the Constitutional Court of Uganda has upheld the nation’s 2015 Tobacco Control Act as constitutional, rejecting a legal challenge from multinational tobacco company British American Tobacco’s (BAT) Uganda subsidiary. The court’s strongly-worded decision will continue to protect millions of citizens from the devastating consequences of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. As a Party to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Uganda is legally obligated to implement measures to reduce tobacco use.

Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act includes evidence-based provisions to reduce tobacco use such as a requirement that all indoor public places, workplaces and public transport be 100 percent smoke-free; a ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 years of age; pictorial health warnings covering 65 percent of tobacco packages; a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and a ban on cigarette sales within 50 meters of educational institutions and other places where children are cared for.

Justice Kenneth Kakuru’s unequivocal rejection of BAT’s claims recognizes that tobacco companies are harming the health of Ugandans and undermining their rights. Today’s ruling should propel the government to move ahead in issuing implementation regulations, protecting more than 40 million Ugandans from the deadly harms of tobacco use.

Tobacco companies and their deadly marketing tactics remain the single greatest obstacle to curbing the global tobacco epidemic that kills seven million people each year. Legal challenges like the one brought by BAT are part of a global strategy to thwart government efforts to curb tobacco use. However, governments can and must fight back. From Uganda to Kenya, courts across Africa and around the world are supporting evidence-based public health laws and rejecting the arguments of the companies producing these deadly products.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds the Constitutional Court of Uganda for protecting the health of Ugandans, as well as the Office of the Attorney General and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development for their actions to defend the Tobacco Control Act.

BAT remains under investigation by the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office for efforts to bribe lawmakers in Uganda - as well as in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Earlier this month BAT was also found to be avoiding its fair share of corporate tax payments to Uganda, depriving the government of critical funds that could be used to pay for the healthcare of those suffering from tobacco-related illness.