Doctors, writers, journalists and anti-tobacco activists have recommended speedy finalisation of the tobacco control law, saying the longer it takes for Bangladesh to amend its tobacco control law, the higher the death toll may rise.
"It is impossible to safeguard non-smokers while allowing designated smoking areas (DSAs) for smokers. So, the legal provision for DSAs must be eliminated," they said at a virtual meeting organised by the PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and the Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) with support from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids (CTFK) yesterday.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, eminent economist and convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, while Hasan Shahriar, head of Tobacco Control at PROGGA, presented the core arguments.
Tobacco-induced illness claims on average 442 lives each day in the country.
A total of 67 countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK, have already implemented a 100% smoke-free environment to reduce the harm associated with second-hand smoke.
Since the existing tobacco control law falls short of banning display of tobacco products, points-of-sale often tend to display products in such a way as to allure children and the youth, said the anti-tobacco activists, adding that Bangladesh should ban the display of tobacco products at points-of-sale.
They also raised several demands, including ensuring a complete ban on corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes of tobacco companies, banning the sale of loose tobacco products, and increasing the area allotted for graphic health warning (GHW) to 90% from the existing 50% on packs of tobacco products.
Professor Emeritus Dr ABM Abdullah, personal physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said he will present all the detrimental effects of tobacco before the prime minister and make a special request to her for the quick passage of the draft amendment.
Dr SM Mostofa Zaman, professor at the department of cardiology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said, "E-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco. E-cigarettes and vaping products must be banned to safeguard the youth."
Poet-journalist Minar Mansur, director of the National Book Centre, said, "In addition to strengthening the tobacco control law, we must run an awareness campaign regarding the devastating effects of tobacco."
Currently, Bangladesh is the 9th largest tobacco consuming country in the world, with 35.3% of its adult population hooked on tobacco. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently taken the initiative to strengthen the tobacco control law as per the directive of the prime minister.
Mortuza Haider Liton, convenor of the Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), ABM Zubair, executive director of PROGGA and representatives of different anti-tobacco organisations were present at the event moderated by Nadira Kiron, co-convener of ATMA.