Tobacco is an important preventable risk factor for premature death and disability. Under the Tobacco Use (Control) Act, hospitals in the country are supposed to be completely tobacco-free. The reality, however, is rather different. Evidence of smoking --- cigarette butts and smell of smoke --- has been found in 71 percent of public hospitals in Dhaka. At the same time, people were seen smoking in public at one-third of the hospitals.
Such revelations appear in a survey titled "Compliance with Tobacco Control Act among Government Health Care Facilities of Dhaka City".
The National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh on Monday organised a seminar at the National Press Club to disseminate the findings of the survey.
The foundation conducted the survey to assess the implementation of the tobacco control act in all government hospitals in Dhaka.
Khairul Abrar, Program Officer of the Anti-Tobacco Programme of the foundation, presented the keynote paper at the seminar.
He stated that the survey was conducted in 51 hospitals. Nearly two-thirds of the hospitals have been found delinquent, with evidence of smokeless tobacco use in their premises.
According to the survey, tobacco products are sold within 100 meters of 80 percent of government hospitals. Shockingly, at 18 percent of the hospitals, tobacco products are sold openly within the premises.
Experts said it is important to have a tobacco cessation clinic in every hospital to assist patients and visitors to quit tobacco. But only 2% of hospitals in the capital have this facility.
Speaking as the chief guest at the seminar, lawmaker Dr Habibe Millat said all hospitals in the country must display anti-tobacco signs under the terms of the tobacco control act.
He requested the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to ensure that the regulation is followed in totality on an immediate basis. He also suggested legal measures against the sale of tobacco within 100 meters of hospitals.
The seminar was presided over by National Professor Brigadier (retd) Abdul Malik, who is also the founder of the National Heart Foundation.
Among others, Shamima Ferdous, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Mozaffar Hossain, president of Bangladesh National Anti-Tuberculosis Association, Prof Dr Mollah Obaydullah, president of Bangladesh Cancer Society and members of different anti-tobacco organisations attended the seminar.
Speakers at the seminar said smoking of tobacco products such as cigarettes and biri not only cause serious harm to the health of smokers, but also to that of people around them.
They warned that indirect smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, stroke and reproductive problems.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017, about 13 percent of people suffer from indirect smoking, even in important places like hospitals.