I was at a press conference the other day at Uganda Heart Institute because today is world no tobacco day. I don’t qualify as press but I got an invite on a day off so I carried myself to Mulago hospital. This was my maiden trip to our infamous national referral hospital and I got lost a lot.
The instructions were, “the institute is somewhere near the mortuary” and I was absolutely not going to ask anyone to direct me to the mortuary. After a few treks to all corners of the hospital I found the building with banners of the institute, a fancy Benz ambulance parked at the front that is if ambulances can be fancy and oxygen tanks in the corridor leading to the board room where the press conference was going to take place.
I wanted to take the seat that would give me the least inconvenience. You know the one where people keep asking to be excused people to pass hitting you with their bags and body parts? So I chose the corner seat right above the leaking air conditioning machine which would sprinkle on me drops of water, give me a few moments to dry and then repeat.
In the several years I have lived in this country I have come to expect government structures to be dilapidated so there was no surprise but in the few moments I had between my next sprinkles I managed to pay attention to the good doctors explaining the relationship between tobacco use and heart disease. (I really wanted to use the word, “cardiovascular”, too so there) and how in Uganda it takes about 8 million to treat one patient of heart disease (insert that hands-on-the-head emoji) and how exposure to tobacco is the leading cause of heart disease.
I was stunned and I wasn’t sure why there is tobacco on the market at all but our governments have to make their money by taxing this multi-billion industries at some point but can you imagine what was going through the mind of whoever invented tobacco? I wanted to google the history of tobacco, but I didn’t know if that would help me or the people who are spending money every day to inhale something that is definitely going to kill them.
There was also so much to learn about the Tobacco Control Act. A law that was enacted in 2015 to regulate the sale and consumption of tobacco but whose enforcement still leaves a lot to be desired, but again we don’t really expect plenty of help from our government to stay alive so how about we help ourselves?
Tobacco consumption can land you in a lot of heart trouble and in a country whose ratio of heart doctors is 15 to a population of 40 million do you really want that? I think not. Chances are by the time one of the doctors gets to you, you will have joined the 13500 people that die every year due to tobacco related illnesses. The ministry of health budget can’t fix broken air conditioning machines at the heart institute and it most definitely can’t fix your heart. On this world no tobacco day, do everything in your power to guard your heart. That is in the Bible even. The guard your heart part