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Parliamentarians Leading Anti-Tobacco activities in Bangladesh

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67 percent of the country’s total deaths each year are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), one of which is the use of tobacco and products. Realizing the dangers of tobacco, HPM Sheikh Hasina announced to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040. ‘Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing (BPFHW)’ was formed with the participation of parliamentarians; working on amending the existing Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products (Control) law to achieve tobacco-free Bangladesh announced by the PM. Parliamentarians of Bangladeshi are leading countries’ anti-tobacco activities. They will engage themselves in such initiatives in the future too.

Speakers said from a press conference titled ‘Tobacco Control Law Amendment for Achieving Tobacco-Free Bangladesh by 2040’, organized on Saturday, July 30, at the Tafazzal Hossain Manik Mia hall room of the Jatiya Press Club organized by BPFHW with the secretariat organization of the forum, national development organization Shastho Shurokkha Foundation.

Chief Guest of the event, Prof. Dr. Md. Habibe Millat MP said, ‘Bangladesh is one of among most tobacco uses. The price of tobacco products is the lowest here. According to the existing Tobacco Control law, only a 300 Taka fine for smoking in public places. It is important to stop smoking in public places. We have noticed that there are some gaps that need to be improved in current law. According to that, we (BPFHW) have given a letter signed by 153 MPs to the Honorable Prime Minister. This has never happened anywhere else in the world. There was a time when members of parliament wrote letters on behalf of tobacco. That situation has changed. We have written to 152 Members of Parliament seeking to change existing tobacco laws and sent a letter signed by 86 MPs to the Finance Minister recommending the increase in tobacco tax. We organized an anti-tobacco conference in Cox’s Bazar with the participation of 40 MPs, declaring ”Cox’s Bazar Deceleration”. We are already noticing the benefits of these initiatives. A number of recommendations have already been incorporated into the proposed revised law in a concerted effort by all anti-tobacco communities. However, this is the first step in amending the law. But we are hopeful, very soon we will be able to achieve our desired goal.’

Earlier, Dr. Nizam Uddin Ahmed, Executive Director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation and Public Health Specialist presented the important aspects of amending the Tobacco Act. In his presentation, it was mentioned that it is necessary to add some issues by amending the existing tobacco control laws. These include a complete ban on smoking in public places and public transport, a ban on the display of tobacco products in sales outlets, a complete ban on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of tobacco companies, and the absence of single sticks/packaging of bidi-cigarettes These include banning the sale of products, banning e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTP) and increasing the size of health warnings illustrated in packets/boxes of tobacco products.

In the press conference, along with the journalist, Mr. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Bangladesh, Dr. Rafiqul Islam, director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, Ms. Farida Zaman, Founder Chairman of Ratnagarva Farida Zaman School & Collage, Doctors, Public Health Specialist, representatives from Anti-Tobacco organizations, students from different schools, universities and volunteers took part.

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