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Tobacco is a serious threat to public health

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  • Rezaur Rahman Rizvi

Tobacco is a product that has no good qualities; on the contrary, it would not be an exaggeration to call it a product of death. But the people of our country are not behind in the use of tobacco. On the contrary, they are hastening their deaths by consuming harmful tobacco.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017 report, nearly half of all tobacco users die from tobacco. Tobacco is linked to six of the eight leading causes of preventable death worldwide. 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. As a result, more than 161,000 people in Bangladesh die of diseases related to the use of tobacco products every year.

According to the GATS report, the number of people who do not smoke but are indirectly harmed by smoking is greater than the total number of smokers. In terms of numbers, it is about 40 million people, which is more than direct smokers.

According to the World Health Organization’s Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2021, 34% of countries and 24% of the world’s population are protected by complete smoking bans.

The same report also stated that as of 2007, only 10 countries had banned smoking anywhere, which was only 3% of the world’s total population. However, 1.6 billion people in 57 countries are currently protected by smoking and tobacco control. That is, a total of 1.8 billion people (a quarter of the world’s population) in 67 countries are enjoying the benefits of smoking bans enacted in their countries.

Incidentally, in the concluding speech of the South Asia Speakers Conference on January 31, 2016, the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the elimination of tobacco use in Bangladesh by 2040. The announcement was so timely and relevant that it was applauded by all quarters, including anti-tobacco organizations. It also sets a precedent in the history of the world. Before, no government head of any country had announced such a specific time frame for tobacco elimination.

However, earlier in 2005, the Government of Bangladesh enacted the ‘Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Act, 2005’ in light of the FCTC. Several important amendments were then made to the Tobacco Control Act in 2013, and following this, the Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products (Control) Rules were enacted in 2015.

As we know, innovation comes with time. New needs and problems also come to the fore. The way tobacco companies used to run their campaigns, they are also changing their plans with time. As a result, since 2005, the use of tobacco has started to decrease gradually through the law but to maintain the continuity of the implementation of the announcement of the Honorable Prime Minister, it is necessary to amend the law to reduce the use of tobacco.

According to the World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2021, in February 2019, Ethiopia passed a law requiring public buildings and workplaces (including hotels) to be 100% smoke-free. Smoking or using tobacco is prohibited by law in any indoor, public, or workplace.

According to the report, approximately 5,000 people died of tobacco-related diseases in Paraguay in 2019, of which about 700 were caused by second-hand smoke. The impact of tobacco damage on public health in Paraguay is particularly visible during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the relationship between COVID-19 and tobacco plays a special role in strengthening tobacco control in Paraguay in 2020.

However the law of our country has provisions to have reserved smoking areas in public transport, restaurants, and hotels with multiple rooms, which is not in line with the protection of public health.

According to the report by the WHO, including Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand, 43 countries in the world have banned the display of tobacco products in sales centers. Similarly, the retail sale of cigarettes is prohibited in 86 countries around the world. However, the law of our country does not mention anything about the retail sale of e-cigarettes.

On the other hand, technology is developing day by day, and we are becoming digital. This modern touch of technology is starting to be felt everywhere. But not all modernity brings us blessings. Some modernity is also leading our youth down the path of destruction. One such harmful thing is e-cigarettes.

Whether e-cigarettes are advertised as heat-not-burn or whatever, such products have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as harmful to the human body. E-cigarette use can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and lung damage. The ingredients found in e-cigarettes are responsible for damaging various cells in the body and causing cancer. The e-cigarette liquid mixture (e-liquid) contains propylene glycol, glycerin, polyethylene glycol, various flavors, and nicotine. As soon as these chemicals are heated, formaldehyde equivalent to cigarette smoke is produced, which irreparably damages the blood circulation of the human body.

Already, more than 50 countries, including India, have banned the sale of e-cigarettes, particularly in South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In some countries, the possession of such cigarettes is prohibited. Moreover, Australia, Canada, and Norway have imposed several restrictions on e-cigarette users. The White House has officially issued a ban on e-cigarettes. It is time to ban e-cigarettes in our country as well.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, the number of e-cigarette users in Bangladesh is very low (0.2%). However, the use of e-cigarettes is increasing day by day. The consequences of excessive use of e-cigarettes among minors are dire. teenage that use e-cigarettes can become addicted to smoking before puberty. It occurs in 9 out of 10 people. Moreover, their use hinders the normal development of the brain. Therefore, before the use of e-cigarettes becomes widespread in society, e-cigarettes should be banned by law as soon as possible.

There is no specific law in Bangladesh regarding the prohibition of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, vaping tobacco, or such products. Bangladesh depends on the import of electronic cigarettes and all their related components, and till now it has not started to manufacture or produce them, so it will be easy to ban them in the country, and now is the right time to ban them by law.

Writer: Rezaur Rahman Rizvi, Anthropologist

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