Smoking at public places like parks, offices, restaurants, hospitals and educational institutions across the country goes on unabated, which is a gross violation of the tobacco control law.
Although there exists a law, but people smoke in crowded places caring less for others’ health as they do not find enforcement of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act-2015.Anti-tobacco campaigners have opined that due to lack of implementation of the law, smoking in public places cannot be controlled. They urged the authorities concerned to take measures for proper implementation of the law.
They said that the bad practice of smoking at public places is largely due to lack of public awareness and easy availability of tobacco products.
Educational institutions, government offices, semi-government offices, non-government offices, indoor work places, office of autonomous bodies, libraries, elevators, hospitals and clinics, court buildings and enclosed restaurants are among public places.
Restaurants and indoor workplaces have also been included among public places that need to be completely smoking-free. Besides, any other or all places declared smoking-free by general or special order of the government have to be maintained, according to the law.
Dr Shariful Alam, country director Bangladesh of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), told the daily sun: “It is true that the law is not being implemented properly at all places, but we have seen some positive effects of the law.”
It is often seen that bus drivers, supervisors and helpers, especially while waiting in traffic stops or signals, light up cigarettes without considering the inconvenience of the passengers.It is also found that many institutions do not have separate smoking zone facilities as required by the law.
In Bangladesh, 43.3 percent of adults (41.3 million) currently use tobacco in smoking and/or smokeless form, according to Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) of 2009
“We can see that people frequently smoke in front of hospitals and educational institutions,” the CTFK country director said.
“Public awareness is very important to stop smoking in public places,” he said. “We are working with various organisations to raise awareness among people in this regard.”
“We have already held talks with the BRTA authorities, bus owners’ associations and restaurant owners’ associations to prevent smoking in public places,” he stated.
He also said, “Smoking-free areas or smoking prohibited signboards should be hung in public places so that people can understand that it is a smoking-free area. But, we rarely see any signboard in public places to this effect.”
According to Progya, an anti-tobacco campaigning organisation, “Awareness among people should be raised first to stop smoking in public places.”
However, many smokers still do not know which are public places and which are not public places. It is essential to install tobacco prohibiting signboards in public places.
Bangladesh government passed the Tobacco Control Law in 2005 and it came into force in 2006. With increasing awareness about harmful effects of tobacco use and campaign by various organisations, the government felt the need to update the law in 2013. On March 12, 2015, the government finalised necessary rules.
In the new law, fine for smoking in public places increased from Tk 50 to 300 and a fine of Tk 500 was proposed for the people who are in management of public places, but fail to check smoking. The fine would be doubled for repeating the offence.
A fine of Tk 1,000 has been fixed for not displaying warning signs in offices or public buildings.
Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, former Coordinator of National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told the daily sun: “NTCC has conducted many mobile court drives to prevent smoking in public places. But, for lack of manpower it is not possible to conduct mobile courts frequently.”
He said: “We need to increase public awareness and their engagement to contain smoking in public places.”
“Increasing prices of tobacco through imposition of higher taxes will help a lot in decreasing the bad practice of smoking,” he added.