OpEd, Politics

Urgent need for tougher Legislation to combat public smoking in South Sudan


By Gama Hassan Oscas

The alarming prevalence of public smoking in South Sudan has become a pressing concern that requires immediate action. Despite the global shift towards stricter smoking regulations and designated smoking areas, South Sudan lags behind in implementing effective measures to protect its citizens from the harmful effects of public smoking. This analytical opinion news aims to shed light on the detrimental impact of public smoking, particularly in public offices and law enforcement agencies. It highlights the urgent need for tough legislative measures and sanctions against public smoking in South Sudan, emphasizing the necessity for designated smoking areas. Additionally, the rise of shisha smoking, particularly among women, calls for decisive intervention by the Ministry of Environment to safeguard public health and welfare.

The pervasive problem of public smoking in South Sudan extends to various public spaces, including restaurants, bars, taxis, buses, and even public offices, particularly in government institutions. The absence of strict regulations and enforcement mechanisms has given smokers a sense of entitlement to smoke openly without facing any consequences. This blatant disregard for the rights of non-smokers creates a hostile environment and poses significant health risks to passive smokers, who suffer the impacts of second-hand smoke without their consent.

The lack of an adequate legal framework to regulate smoking in public spaces is a significant factor contributing to the prevalence of public smoking in South Sudan. The absence of clear rules and penalties has emboldened smokers to continue their habits without restraint. The lax enforcement of existing laws further exacerbates the problem, allowing public smoking to persist without accountability.

The disturbing trend of public smoking extends to government institutions, where officials smoke freely in front of visitors, disregarding the principles of public health and professionalism. Similarly, law enforcement personnel, notably the police, openly smoke in public without any regard for the well-being of others. When questioned about their actions, some smokers respond aggressively, demonstrating a lack of sensitivity towards non-smokers’ rights and well-being.

Passive smokers, who involuntarily inhale second-hand smoke, bear the brunt of the consequences of public smoking. The exposure to harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke increases the risk of respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, and cancer among non-smokers. These individuals, who have not made a choice to smoke, suffer the detrimental effects of public smoking without their consent, further emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive legislative measures to protect their rights and health.

One of the most concerning aspects of public smoking in South Sudan is the prevalence of smoking among commercial taxi drivers. Passengers, many of whom are non-smokers, find themselves in a distressing situation, exposed to second-hand smoke without any say in the matter. This complete disregard for passengers’ health and preferences calls for stringent measures to curb smoking while driving and protect passengers from involuntary exposure to harmful smoke.

The growing popularity of shisha smoking in South Sudan, particularly among women with complicated lifestyles, poses an additional health threat to non-smokers. The notorious trend of shisha smoking among women underscores the need for focused intervention to protect vulnerable populations from its detrimental health effects.

To address the severe issue of public smoking in South Sudan, the government must urgently enact the following legislative measures:

Comprehensive Smoking Ban: The South Sudanese government should implement a comprehensive smoking ban in all indoor public places, government institutions, and law enforcement offices. This ban should extend to specific outdoor areas to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

Designated Smoking Areas: The creation of designated smoking areas in public spaces will allow smokers to indulge in their habit while minimizing the impact on non-smokers. These zones must be adequately ventilated to prevent the drift of smoke.

Stricter Penalties: Introduce heavy fines and penalties for individuals and businesses found violating the smoking ban. The severity of penalties should escalate for repeat offenders to serve as a deterrent.

Enforcement and Monitoring: Strengthen enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with smoking regulations. Regular monitoring and inspection of public spaces are necessary to curb public smoking effectively.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Collaborate with health authorities and non-governmental organizations to launch public awareness campaigns on the dangers of smoking and the benefits of a smoke-free environment. Targeted efforts can bring about a cultural shift towards responsible smoking practices.

Shisha-Specific Regulations: Develop targeted regulations to control the sale and consumption of shisha, particularly among women. These regulations should focus on raising awareness about the adverse health effects of shisha smoking.

In conclusion, South Sudan must urgently address the rampant issue of public smoking to protect the rights and health of its citizens. The prevalence of public smoking in various public spaces, including government institutions and law enforcement offices, demands immediate legislative action. By implementing a comprehensive smoking ban, creating designated smoking areas, imposing strict penalties, enhancing enforcement and monitoring, and launching public awareness campaigns, the government can create a healthier and more respectful society. Furthermore, addressing the rise of shisha smoking, especially among women, is crucial to safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable populations. The Ministry of Environment must take decisive steps to regulate public smoking, protecting non-smokers from the harmful impacts of passive smoking and preserving the right to breathe clean air in public spaces.

The author of this article is an advocate and can be reached on email at: oscarsgama@gmail.com


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