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OTT Streaming Platform New Trap to Encourage Smoking

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Dramas, movies, and web series popular among young people are promoting smoking scenes by main characters, encouraging tobacco use among minors. OTT streaming platforms have become a new trap encouraging children and teenagers to smoke, with cigarette companies allegedly involved in this scheme. Tobacco control experts and prominent figures are demanding the elimination of smoking scenes in dramas, movies, and OTT content to build a healthy, drug-free nation. This demand was made by speakers at a press conference organized by ‘MANAS’ at the National Press Club on Tuesday, May 30, at 11:00 a.m. The press conference was chaired by the founder president of ‘MANAS’, Heroic Freedom Fighter Professor Dr. Arupratan Choudhury. Other notable speakers included the General Secretary of the National Press Club and Editor of Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta, actress Rumana Rashid Ishita, and public health expert and policy analyst Ad. Syed Mahbubul Alam.

Organizing secretary of MANAS, Heroic Freedom Fighter, Matiur Rahman Talukder delivered the welcomed speech, and moderated by the Project Coordinator of MANAS, Umme Jannat. It is noteworthy that this year, MANAS founder Dr. Arupratan Choudhury received the ‘Special Award of South East Asia Regional Director’ from the World Health Organization for his outstanding contribution to tobacco control. Dr. Choudhury has been working to create anti-tobacco awareness for over 40 years through media programs, publishing more than 30 books, producing hundreds of articles and films, and establishing MANAS. He is a respected member of the government’s National Drug Control Committee and National Tobacco Control Task Force.
In his speech, Dr. Choudhury highlighted that smokers suffer from various non-communicable diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and long-term lung disease, with 67% of people currently dying from these diseases. Bangladesh, with its youth-dependent population, is a target for tobacco companies aiming to create long-term consumers by enticing young people to smoke through popular media. This is a violation of the Tobacco Control Act, and urgent measures are needed to prevent the creation of new smokers in the next generation.
Ad. Syed Mahbubul Alam emphasized that smoking is portrayed in plays, movies, and web series as an essential activity, a narrative driven by tobacco companies to trap children and teenagers. He stressed the need for OTT policies in the country to address smoking cessation and protect public health. Alam also pointed out the proliferation of ‘smoking areas’ in restaurants, which disrupts the family-friendly environment and aids in the promotion of tobacco products. Actress Rumana Rashid Ishita expressed concern for children, stating that today’s youth are the future. She urged societal idols to be more aware, as children learn more by observing than reading. She noted that harmful products like cigarettes and vapes are easily accessible to all ages due to information technology, underscoring the importance of raising awareness and enforcing the law. Shyamal Dutta reflected on the past when tobacco companies-controlled advertising. Despite that, Bhorer Kagoj refused to print smoking ads, adhering to the principle that promoting harmful products does not benefit humanity. He criticized the tobacco industry’s efforts to increase consumption in developing countries like Bangladesh and called out the lack of enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors. World No Tobacco Day is observed annually on May 31 in various countries, including Bangladesh, to promote anti-tobacco awareness. This year’s theme is “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.” MANAS has organized a discussion meeting at Udayan Uchcha Madhyamik Bidyalaya on Friday, May 31, 2024, at 3:00 PM to celebrate the day and emphasize the theme.

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