Smoking in public places, including hotels, restaurants and even hospitals, is going on unabated across the country in violation of the law, causing deadly diseases for not only the smokers but also for those inhale smoke.
Experts said ensuring smoking-free public places is a must to save public life as passive smoking also causes deadly diseases. They said it is important to scrap the provision of designated smoking zones from the existing law.
Many public places are still hotspots for the sale of cigarettes and bidis and people continue to smoke at all places although smoking in public places is banned.
Visiting different public places, including some hospitals, bus terminals and railway stations, it was seen that many people were smoking openly there.
Talking to the Daily Sun, a number of nonsmokers alleged that many people continue smoking at most of the public places, even on the hospital premises.
“I saw a number of people on the hospital premises smoking which disturbed many patients,” Zaman Ahmed, who visited Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital recently, told the Daily Sun.
A recent study conducted by the NHFHRI to assess the implementation of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usages (Control) Act in all public hospitals in Dhaka said the enforcement of the law is still poor as direct smoking or evidence of smoking has been found in 71 percent of the hospitals in the capital.
The experts said smoking in public places is going on unabated not only for poor enforcement of the existing tobacco control law that banned smoking in public places and public transport but also for a loophole in the existing law.
Section 7 (1) of the law stipulates that the owner, caretaker or controller or manager of public places and any owner, caretaker, controller or manager of the public vehicles may mark off or specify the place for smoking.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Prof Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Research at NHFHRI, said if there is any designated smoking area in a public place or transport, smoke from it can easily spread to other areas. “As a result, nonsmokers visiting the public places are also at health risk. For this reason, the designated smoking area has been banned in public places in 63 countries across the world, including Canada, Spain and Nepal. Similarly, it’s important to ban it in Bangladesh.”
Different anti-tobacco organisations have recently demanded that the tobacco control law be strengthened. They said the current law needs to be amended to keep nonsmokers safe from second-hand smoke. They demanded that no smoking area be kept in any public place.
Health ministry sources said the government has already taken initiative to amend the tobacco control law while the anti-tobacco campaigners have raised voice to keep no provision of any designated smoking area in the amendment in a bid to totally stop smoking in public places.
Asked whether designated smoking area in public places will be scrapped from the tobacco control law, Hossain Ali Khondoker, coordinator (Additional Secretary) of the National Tobacco Control Cell, said, “Work to amend the tobacco control law is going on. There’s a demand for scrapping the provision.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) said there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, which causes more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year and serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places, and 65 000 die each year from illnesses attributable to second-hand smoke.
“Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers and are popular, as they do not harm business and they encourage smokers to quit,” the WHO said.