“Everyone must work together to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh. Because only a concerted effort can make the country tobacco-free.”- This comment was made by Md. Saifuzzaman Shikhar, Member of Parliament (Magura-1), Aroma Dutta, Member of Parliament (Women’s Seat-11), Member, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Social Welfare and Md. Mostafizur Rahman, former Chairman of Bangladesh Chemical Industry Corporation (BCIC) and Lead Policy Advisor of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Bangladesh. The live discussion titled ‘What to do to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh’ was conducted by Iqbal Masud, Director, Health and Wash Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission on May 29 at 11 am.
Md. Mostafizur Rahman, former Chairman of Bangladesh Chemical Industry Corporation (BCIC) and Lead Policy Advisor of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Bangladesh, delivered the keynote address at the discussion held on the eve of World No Tobacco Day on May 31. He said tobacco was involved in six of the eight leading causes of preventable death worldwide. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), nearly half of all tobacco users die from tobacco use. Tobacco users have a 57% higher risk of developing tobacco-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, COPD, or lung cancer and a 109% higher risk of developing other tobacco-related cancers. That is why more than 1 lakh 61 thousand people die of tobacco-related diseases every year in Bangladesh. 35% of adults use tobacco products. As a number which is more than three and a half crores. Again, minors between the ages of 13 and 15 do not shy away from using tobacco products. As a percentage, it is also about 6.9%. The number of people who do not smoke, but indirectly suffer from smoking, is about 40 million.
He added that the Government of Bangladesh enacted the Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Act, 2005 in the light of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In 2013, a number of important amendments were made to the Tobacco Control Act and in 2015, the Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Rules were enacted. However, the existing tobacco control law is largely consistent with the FCTC, but there are weaknesses in some areas. The law does not say anything about banning emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, a new threat to public health, especially teenagers and young adults. Therefore, it is very important to amend the law. Another thing I would like to mention is that the current tobacco tax structure is very complex, which is a big obstacle in discouraging tobacco use. And so, this tax structure needs to be simplified. By doing this, if the tobacco tax is increased in an appropriate manner, it will play an effective role in reducing the use of tobacco.
Member of Parliament Md. Saifuzzaman Shikhar said that so far, no country in the world has been able to announce a specific time to be tobacco-free, which was given by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He has announced plans to make the country tobacco-free by 2040. I hope we see a reflection of his announcement. In this case, the government is trying its best and will continue to do so. In particular, the social movement we have built against tobacco must continue.
Member of Parliament Aroma Dutta said those involved in tobacco cultivation have dire health risks. Realizing this, the present government is showing the way to alternative cultivation to the tobacco growers. Which is helping them to turn away from tobacco cultivation. But it is also true that the success of any movement does not come overnight. This takes time. I hope that the gaps in the current tobacco control law will be rectified to reduce the incidence of tobacco use among the people of this country. That is why we have sincerity and efforts from the members of Parliament. Which will continue in the future. I also think it is important to increase prices and impose specific taxes to control tobacco products.
Incidentally, this live discussion titled ‘What to do to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh’ was broadcast simultaneously on Facebook and YouTube.