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Amend Law to Tackle Tobacco-related Deaths: Speakers at PROGGA’s Virtual Meeting

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Tobacco-induced illness claims on average 442 lives each day in Bangladesh. The longer it takes for Bangladesh to amend its tobacco control law, the higher the death toll may rise. Doctors, writers, journalists, and anti-tobacco activists have suggested the speedy finalization of the tobacco control law. Speakers said this today (23 July 2023) at 11 AM during a virtual meeting organized by PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) with support from Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids (CTFK).

It was informed during the virtual meeting that it is impossible to safeguard non-smokers while allowing designated smoking areas (DSAs) for smokers. So, the legal provision for DSAs must be eliminated. A total of 67 countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom, have already implemented a 100% percent smoke-free environment to reduce the harms associated with second-hand smoke. Since the existing tobacco control law falls short of banning the display of tobacco products, points-of-sale often tend to display products in such a way as to allure the children and the youth. Bangladesh should ban the display of tobacco products at points of sale. It was also mentioned during the meeting that the use of e-cigarettes and vape products is on the rise among the youth which has already emerged as a matter of serious concern. 32 countries which include our neighboring India have already banned such products. Bangladesh must follow suit and ban e-cigarettes and vaping by finalizing the draft amendment proposal of the tobacco control law.

Ensuring a complete ban on corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of tobacco companies, banning the sale of loose tobacco products, and increasing the area allotted for graphic health warning (GHW) to 90 percent from the existing 50 percent on the packs of tobacco products were among the demands raising during the event.

Dr. ABM Abdullah, the personal physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Professor Emeritus, said, “Tobacco kills. I will present all the detrimental effects of tobacco before the Honorable Prime Minister and make a special request to her for the quick passage of the draft amendment.”

Dr. S M Mostofa Zaman, Professor of the Cardiology Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said, “E-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco. E-cigarettes and vaping products must be banned to safeguard the youth.”

Minar Mansur, Poet, Journalist, and Director of the National Book Centre, said, “In addition to strengthening the tobacco control law, we must run awareness campaigns regarding the devastating effects of tobacco.”

Zulhas Alam, Bureau Chief, Associated Press (AP), said, ” It is the sacred responsibility of the State to safeguard children, women and all the non-smokers from the harms of secondhand smoke. That’s why we must ensure speedy finalization of the amendment of the tobacco control law and repeal the provision of DSAs.”

Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), said, “Tobacco companies are displaying tobacco products’ packs at the points-of-sale to attract the adolescent and the youth. This must be banned.”

It should be noted that with 35.3 percent of the adult population hooked on tobacco, Bangladesh is currently the 9th largest tobacco-consuming country in the world. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has recently taken the initiative to strengthen the tobacco control law as per the directive of the Honorable Prime Minister.

Eminent economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad presided over the event. Hasan Shahriar, Head of Tobacco Control, PROGGA presented the core arguments whereas Nadira Kiron, co-convener, ATMA, hosted the event. Among those present during the event were Mortuza Haider Liton, Convenor, Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA); ABM Zubair, Executive Director, PROGGA and representatives of different anti-tobacco organizations.

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