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School of Public Health
College of Health Sciences, Makerere University

47% of Kampala’s young men Exposed to Tobacco Smoke in Public Places -Study

Posted on : Friday, December 4, 2020

COVID-19 & Tobacco. Children in Kampala decry tobacco smoke exposure -Internet Photo

In a latest study, researchers have found that nearly 50% of young adults and adolescents in Kampala are at a risk of cancer, heart disease and other lung related diseases due to exposure to tobacco smoke in public places.

The new research was released by researchers at the Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH). Titled, Formative Assessment of Adolescent Boys and Young Men’s Health Status in Kampala, Uganda, the study assessed the adolescent boys and young men (ABYM) on risk-taking behaviours, health protective behaviours and health status of 2,500 participants aged 10-24 years in-and out-of-school in all the five divisions of Kampala City.

“We found that 47% were exposure to tobacco smoke in public places such as restaurants, shops and other places in the past seven days,” said Dr. Joseph Matovu, co-principal investigator of the study.

The researchers say this exposure rate of tobacco smoke in public to the young adolescents and young men in Kampala has an implication on the Tobacco Control Act of 2015.

“As you realize, this revelation means that people are still smoking in public places and you have nearly half of the boys reporting that they were exposed to secondhand smoke,” Dr. Matovu, who is also a Behavioral Research Scientist contends.

Exposure tobacco smoke can cause other diseases such as stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In September 2015, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni assented to The Tobacco Control Act. The law prohibits smoking in public places, workplaces and means of public transport and puts a penalty of a conviction to a fine not exceeding ten currency points or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five months, or both for a person who commits such an offence.

The researchers say the revelation from the study should tickle the law enforcement agencies and other members of the public about this continued violation of the law.

Also closely related, the study found that 15% or say 386 adolescent boys and young men in Kampala had ever tried or experimented with any form of smoked tobacco products. Tobacco use was higher among out of school and among older adolescent boys than other counterparts.

The study also reveals that tobacco use was highest among those aged 20 to 24 followed by those aged between 15 to 19 and lowest among those aged between 10 to 14.

“There is a window of opportunity here for policymakers and other stakeholders, because we have really an opportunity to intervene when these young people are still young. Before they begin to engage in these behaviors and we need also interventions for target those who have already initiated the behaviors,” observed Dr. Matovu.

According to the study, 42% of young men in Kampala reported that they saw or heard tobacco media messages on TV, radio, internet or associates.

“In other words, the message is out there, but only 42% report that they have heard such messages. The implication here is that we still need to do some more work to reach out to the remaining but also the fact that you have nearly half of the respondents reporting being exposed to secondhand smoke, despite these messages, people continue to smoke in public places,” Dr. Matovu.

The study also established that nearly 70% had seen people using tobacco on TV in videos or movies. Researchers say all these behaviors tend to influence the way people behave.

“We have cases of people saying, ‘you know, but I saw it on TV, people are doing it. Why do you stop me from doing the same?’ That's something that we need to take up. So, all these findings have implications on the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act in Uganda.”

Quantitative data were collected on health status of adolescent boys and young men in Kampala on specific areas of alcohol use, dietary behaviour, illicit drug use, tobacco use, sanitation and hygiene, mental health, physical activity and sedentary behaviour, protective factors, sexual risk behaviours, violence and unintentional injury, risk perception, adolescent health needs and the effects of COVID-19 on ABYM’s health and social wellbeing.

In Uganda, the prevalence of smoked and smokeless tobacco use among adults is 11.6% among men, 5% among women and 8% overall. This is according to the 2020 World Health Organisation Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Uganda Fact Sheet.

Prevalence among school children aged 13-15 years is estimated to be 19.3% among young boys, 16% among young girls and 17.3% overall.

Kellen Nyamurungi, a health policy expert at Makerere University School of Public Health notes that whereas tobacco use in Uganda is lower than in many other countries, it is important for government not to neglect its responsibility to prevent premature deaths from tobacco, and the morbidity associated with tobacco use.

“This is particularly important at the current time when tobacco use can, from existing evidence, affect COVID-19 disease severity,” Nyamurungi asserts.

In her August 2020 Uganda policy brief on COVID-19 and Tobacco, Nyamurungi advocates for integration of interventions and messages to avert communicable and non-communicable disease risks at the current time for the overall health and wellbeing of the population.

“The Ministry of Health Uganda should leverage the COVID-19 response to push for reductions in tobacco use and promote tobacco cessation. Tobacco control messages should be disseminated along with social distancing and sanitation and hygiene messages for the prevention COVID-19,” reads in part an August 2020 policy brief by Nyamurungi.




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