By Tesfa-Alem Tekle (Sudan Tribune) |

Addis Ababa―Authorities in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa said Wednesday a ban on smoking in public places will take effect in less than a month.

In 2014, Ethiopian lawmakers unanimously passed a law which prohibits smoking in public places to discourage the increasing numbers of smokers and combat tobacco-related non-communicable diseases like cancer.

The law makes smoking illegal in public areas, including in social places like bars, restaurants, schools, sports venues, as well as where religious events take place.

Other outdoor public places, including hospitals, schools and health centers are also required to be smoke-free.

The move will make the capital Addis Ababa the second Ethiopian city to enforce the law after north Ethiopia’s Mekelle city, which put the law into effect in January last year.

The law which came to effect nearly two years after approved in parliament is seen by many as overdue, but officials said it was delayed for a reason.

“The implementation of the law banning smoking in Addis Ababa was delayed to buy time for awareness raising activities,” Zeyneba Shikur, deputy director general in the Addis Ababa Food, Medicine, Health Care and Control Authority said on Wednesday.

According to the authority, local officials will begin penalizing violators of the law effective from next month. Owners of bars and other recreational institutions that violate the law will be fined at least $95 much lesser than what Mekelle city has set; $150 for owners and $ 50 for a customer.

Individuals who send persons under 18 years to purchase cigarettes will be fined $119 and the same fine is set for those shops and institutions found selling less than a packet of cigarette.

It was also disclosed that promoting and advertise tobacco products is punishable by at least $225. Many bars and restaurants in Addis Ababa have long implemented the legal framework but most of the smokers are unaware of the ban.

Previous studies indicate that Ethiopia, which is Africa’s second most populous nation, with a population of some 94 million, has one of the lowest smoking rates globally.

According to the studies, Ethiopia is one of only six countries with a smoking prevalence below 5% among smokers aged over 15 years.

However, smoking rates are increasing alarmingly in Ethiopia and the country still sees tobacco as a growing public health concern. Nearly one in 10 young Ethiopians is believed to be a smoker.

Young Ethiopians usually start the habit of smoking while still in high school or at colleges and universities mainly due to peer pressure but end up being addicted.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than a billion smokers worldwide, but almost 80% of them live in low and middle-income countries where the “burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of non-smokers world-wide also lose their lives or expose to long-term illness due to effects of passive smoking.

Source: Sudan Tribune
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