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Speedy amendment urged to reduce tobacco-related deaths

Parliamentarians, public health experts, doctors, economists and anti-tobacco leaders have urged the speedy finalization of the amendment of the tobacco control law to protect public health. They made the call at a discussion meeting titled ‘Prime Minister’s Vision of Tobacco-Free Bangladesh by 2040, Achievements and Way Forward’ organized at The Westin Dhaka on Monday evening, 05 December 2022. The event was jointly organized by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress), National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, DORP and Unnayan Shamannay.

Speakers at the discussion meeting said that as a result of various anti-tobacco activities of the government, tobacco use has declined by 18.5 percent in 2017 compared to 2009 (relative reduction). While this reduction in tobacco use within such a short time reflects the government’s success, it is not enough to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040. Due to some loopholes in the existing tobacco control law such as provision of designated smoking areas (DSA) in public places and transports, display of tobacco products at point of sales, corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of tobacco companies, loose sales of tobacco products and sales of new types of tobacco products including e-cigarettes, it is unable to play an effective role in reducing tobacco use. Currently, the prevalence of tobacco use stands at 35.3 percent (37.8 million) among the adult population (15 y/o and above). Tobacco claims 161,000 lives in Bangladesh every year. Hundreds of thousands more fall ill and suffer from a wide range of disabilities due to tobacco use. Therefore, tobacco-related deaths and injuries will continue to increase as long as there is a delay in imposing strictness on tobacco use through legislative amendments. In order to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 by reducing the consumption of tobacco in the country, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her commitment to amend the tobacco control law in 2016 in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

Some of the proposals included in the draft amendment are eliminating Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) in all public places and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products, banning so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of tobacco companies, banning the sale of loose tobacco products, banning the production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping products and increasing the area allotted for graphic health warning (GHW) to 90 percent from existing 50 percent.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Professor Dr. Md. Habibe Millat MP, Barrister Shameem Haider PatwaryMP, Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, Additional Secretary (WHO Wing), Health Services Division, YolondaRichardson, Executive Vice President of Global Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Vandana Shah, Vice President, Health Systems Strengthening for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK)- Bangladesh, Professor Brig. (Rtd) Abdul Malik, Founder and President of National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, Economist Dr. Atiur Rahman, and representatives of Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) and anti-tobacco organizations were present as discussants at the event.