Thursday, 2 February, 2023

Quick amendment of act stressed to reduce tobacco-related deaths

Parliamentarians, public health experts, doctors, economists and anti-tobacco leaders have recommended quick finalization of the amendment of the tobacco control law to protect public health.

They made the call at a discussion titled 'Prime Minister's Vision of Tobacco-Free Bangladesh by 2040, Achievements and Way Forward' at a city hotel on Monday evening, said a press release today.

The event was jointly organised by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress), National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, DORP and Unnayan Shamannay.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, Professor Dr Md Habibe Millat, MP, Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, MP, Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, Additional Secretary (WHO Wing), Health Services Division, Yolonda Richardson, Executive Vice President of Global Programmes, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Vandana Shah, Vice President, Health Systems Strengthening for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Md. Mostafizur Rahman,

Lead Policy Advisor for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK)- Bangladesh, Professor Brig. (Rtd) Abdul Malik, Founder and President of National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, Economist Dr. Atiur Rahman, and representatives of Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) and anti-tobacco organizations were present as discussants at the event.

The speakers at the discussion said tobacco use has declined by 18.5 percent in 2017 compared to 2009 (relative reduction) because of various anti-tobacco activities of the government.

Though this reduction in tobacco use within such a short time reflects the government's success, it is not enough to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, they observed.

They said due to some loopholes in the existing tobacco control law such as provision of designated smoking areas (DSA) in public places and transports, display of tobacco products at point of sales, corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of tobacco companies, loose sales of tobacco products and sales of new types of tobacco products including e-cigarettes, it is unable to play an effective role in reducing tobacco use.

Currently, the prevalence of tobacco use stands at 35.3 percent (37.8 million) among the adult population (15 y/o and above), they said.

The speakers said tobacco claims 161,000 lives in Bangladesh every year and hundreds of thousands more fall ill and suffer from a wide range of disabilities due to tobacco use.

Therefore, tobacco-related deaths and injuries will continue to increase as long as there is a delay in imposing strictness on tobacco use through legislative amendments, they added.

In order to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 by reducing the consumption of tobacco in the country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her commitment to amend the tobacco control law in 2016 in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), they said.

Some of the proposals included in the draft amendment are eliminating Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) in all public places and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products, banning so-called corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of tobacco companies, banning the sale of loose tobacco products, banning the production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping products and increasing the area allotted for graphic health warning (GHW) to 90 percent from existing 50 percent, they added.