Speakers at an event urged the government to formulate specific guidelines to keep tobacco control policies free from the influence of tobacco companies.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance and the Work for Better Bangladesh Trust made the plea at a human chain held in the city on Wednesday.
More than 50 people from eight anti-tobacco organisations participated in the event.
The speakers said tobacco companies have been disseminating misinformation to the government to prevent the enactment of tobacco control laws and surcharge policies, to bar the amendment of relevant laws, prevent the raising of taxes, and also obstruct the implementation of various policies on tobacco control.
Despite various steps taken by the government to control tobacco, unexpected intervention by tobacco companies has made it impossible to implement Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), they added.
The speakers further said that tobacco companies are desperate to expand their businesses and grow their profits despite the government's goal to make Bangladesh tobacco free by 2040 as declared by the Prime Minister.
Sagufta Sultana, project director of Aid Foundation, said the use of tobacco during the Covid-19 outbreak has doubled. However, various health organisations say that the use of tobacco products increases the risk of spreading the deadly virus by 14%. Tobacco products emit 26 lakh tonnes of carbon every year, polluting the environment and causing natural disasters.
''Isn't it surprising that in spite of all that we know, the government is still considering classifying tobacco as an agricultural product'' she raised a question.
She said, "We want to implement Article 5.3 of the FCTC as soon as possible to ensure that tobacco companies do not influence tobacco control policies."
Helal Ahmed, general secretary of ' Prattashya', said, "Every year about 161,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases and 83,000 people are crippled. Due to tobacco addiction, 42% of the people in this country are harming their health, finances and leaving their families destitute.''
Leaders of different anti-tobacco organsations, including Natab, Aid Foundation, WBB Trust, TCRC, Bangladesh Girls Guide, Gram Bangla Unnayan Committee, Bureau of Economic Research, Fast Focus Trust, Stop Emission Now and DAS Bangladesh took part in the event.