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Ethiopia drafts stringiesttobacco law

To regulate food safety in production, trade, eateries  

In a bid to prevent the public from a devastating health consequences attributed to tobacco products, the Ethiopian government is set to introduce a stringent law that will restrict the tobacco industry from having any interference and interaction with government officials mainly responsible for the adoption of public health policy and implementations. 

The government that sought the importance of preventing and controlling the public from the severe consequences of tobacco products as well as from similar consequences on the public health due to unsafe, infectious and poor quality foods and medicines has drafted the stringiest proclamation to date and presented it to House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) this week. 

The bill titled: Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation which was endorsed by the Council of Ministers was tabled on Tuesday for its first reading before HPR. 

The bill in its provision, article 48 has imposed prohibition of smoking and tobacco use in public places, including in all common areas within condominium housings, in any outdoor part of healthcare facilities, government institutions, schools that enroll children or youth under the age of 18, in any outdoor spaces that is within ten meters of any doorway, operable window including public parks. 

The bill also restricts direct or indirect sell or offer of tobacco products to any person under the age of 18. It also bans the selling of single free stick tobaccos that means tobacco traders will be forced only to sell the entire pack containing 20 sticks. 

The bill in its article 51 proposes protection to responsible government organs against the tobacco industry’s interference. 

"No government organ or any official working in the area of health policies should receive any financial or in kind contribution from the tobacco industry," states article 51 (4).

The bill further restricts interactions between any government organ responsible for the adoption of public health policy and the tobacco industry. In addition, any financial or in-kind charitable contribution by the tobacco industry will be allowed only if the contribution has in no way, the aim or effect of promoting tobacco products. 

In addition to theses, the bill also imposes a total ban on the manufacturing, importing, selling, and distribution of or an offer to sell any shisha products. A trade activity to provide places for smoking shisha or other tobacco products will also be prohibited, according to article 49 of the bill. 

To guarantee the safety of food products that are manufactured and packed for the purpose of trade activity, the bill requires mandatory registration for food and food trade establishments. 

It also lists mandatory standards for food manufacturing, preparation, storage, transport as well as standards for selling places for food products. 

In a bid to discourage the consumption of alcoholic drinks, the bill further puts stringent restrictions on advertising and promotion of alcohols. 

"Any manufacturer, importer or distributer of alcoholic drinks withalcoholic volume more than 10 percent shall not directly or indirectly be sponsoredin public and government holiday, exhibition, sport events, school event and other youth centered events," according to the bill.

In addition to this, an alcoholic drink whose volume is less than 10 percent will be advertised through the broadcasting mediaonly from 9PM in the evening to 6 AM in the evening.    

YohannesWoldegebreal, a legal expert argues critically against the bill. 

The bill has brought several changes, with far reaching consequences that could stifle the customer basis, market share of many of these businesses and even drain the resource basis for the growing print and electronic media and various other activities, he stated in his commentary given toThe Reporter.

According to him, the bill has also failed to determine and clearly delineate the perimeter of its enforcement.

For instance, in the case of food, the regulation attempted to cover “everyone who provides food for the public consumption to ensure its safety,” he explained. 

Yohannes was critical on the definition given to food products. According to the bill, food is defined as  'any substance, whether processed or semi-processed, which is intended for human consumption, and includes plants, and plant and animal products placed in the market or offered for use by the public."  Yohannes argues that the definition provided to food and the scope of regulation the bill attempted to cover will have a negative impact on the social values of the Ethiopian society that consider food as a vital component in various events of Ethiopian social life. 

DerjeMoges, a legal consultant involved in the drafting process argues against Yohannes's assertion.According to Dereje, the impression that the bill is invasive in the conduct of various social events like marriage, death, and holidays, is a wrong claim. 

"The bill does not and is never intended to regulate such social occasions. What the bill empowers is really the administrative organs intheir regulation of food substances provided by food traders and food establishment, and not in any way consumption by individualcitizens;either in conducting social events such as marriagesor other holidays," Dereje explained to The Reporter

He further stated that for any food provider to be regulated; there has to be a food trade or food establishment providing food for public use. 

"This is quite clear from Chapter three of the bill which provides registration of establishments and not individual hosts," he concluded.