Many years ago, a zealous organization embarked on a campaign against tobacco use, citing all the dangers, people it kills etc. I had quit smoking for about a year at the time and did not start up again until five years later.
Anyway, they approached me about being some sort of ambassador because I had ‘given up the vice’. I told them no. I told them I did not like how they were spreading their message. I didn’t want people who smoke to be demonized and those who don’t to be pillars of morality. I don’t like hypocrisy. Many things kill people in Uganda but are not demonized and those who practice the acts are not demonized either.
I saw what was coming down the road (I’ll give you sufficient evidence as you read) and I didn’t like it. I wanted the focus to be on allocating smoking areas, and providing help for people who want to quit.
The law that was passed provides the focus I expected of smoking distances, zones etc. The coalition did, as I suspected, a spectacular job of using the law to viciously attack the freedoms of the right to smoke. They focused on the penalties, the punishments, the jail time, with a vigor that would make the early missionaries ascend to heaven on the spot, twirling in ecstasy.
The law and the coalition advertised the campaign in such a way that smokers are now scared to smoke where the law allows them to. I am abused smoking in smoking zones by fans of the coalition. I have been threatened to be shot by a prisons officer. SHOT!
I was in a restaurant once (smoking area) when KCCA came in and did their thing with gusto. Poor manager. They told him it was illegal to allow smokers. They threatened to shut him down, revoke his licence.
I have not yet learned the patience of how to deal with ignorant exploitative bullies like a grown up. I invited the KCCA men to join me, cigarette in hand, and asked why they were they doing harassing the manager. I toldthem I was seated in a smoking zone, it was not illegal to smoke, and they were committing an actual crime of harassment for solicitation of a bribe. They didn’t bother to deny the bribe part.
The KCCA guy genius instead told me if I wanted to smoke I should go to the toilet.
Gods of verses, insult challenge accepted
I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and by the time I was done, they left with their tails between their legs and abject apologies.
Threats of shooting. Threats of closing restaurants. Individuals being abused in public for being smokers. We have an anti-tobacco law but we also have an anti-tobacco campaign.
And the campaign is the biggest collection of selfish cow dung typical of Ugandan ‘morality’ being used abusively, citing public health as a justification. No one is demonized for drinking alcohol or eating junk food. They affect public health and kill too. It is not addressed so we have alcoholism, depression, diabetes, pick a disease. Draft a bill. Ban chicken skin.
As for the coalition-as smokers like myself adjust to a new life of persecution, you may start a program for those who want to quit their addiction to nicotine, as well as educating people about the law, and NOT the promotion of denying people the right to smoke.
The rest is too late. You helped yet another law get passed that, while it is an obvious sign of progress, is being used to oppress, persecute and threaten.
So for those who want to come to smokers and lecture them-if you have the right to sit in a bar and eat pork and drink beer daily, you may even die before the smoker. Enjoy the self-righteousness while it lasts.
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