Considering the severe detrimental effects of tobacco and its active role in deteriorating coronavirus crisis, 100 eminent citizens of the country have called for a temporary ban on the marketing and sale of all tobacco products during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to protect public health.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), use of tobacco increases the risk of coronavirus infection because of the hand-to-mouth action associated with it. This also raises the risk of serious illness due to lung disease or reduced lung capacity.
Tobacco products also weaken the immune system of the body, making it extremely vulnerable to coronavirus infection.
A number of countries including India, South Africa and Botswana have already taken this WHO warning very seriously and imposed a temporary ban on the sale of all tobacco products.
The eminent citizens in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have emphasised that Bangladesh should utilize the global experience to effectively combat the novel coronavirus.
The signatories include prominent economist Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, convener of National Anti-Tobacco Platform; National Professor Brig (retd) Abdul Malik, founder and president of the National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh; Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, former vice-chancellor of the University of Dhaka; Dr Abul Barkat, professor of the Department of Economics and Japanese Studies, University of Dhaka; Ghulam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh; Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, former deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank; Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, journalist leader and editor-in-chief of TV Today; Dr Arup Ratan Chowdhury, dental specialist and recipient of Ekushey Padak; Prof Dr AK Azad Khan, president, Diabetic Association of Bangladesh; Dr Nasir Uddin Ahmed, former chairman of the National Board of Revenue; Muzzammil Husain Monju, senior journalist; Sukanta Gupta Alak, editor, Desh TV; Abu Taher, joint editor, Bangladesh Pratidin and others.
The letter also says 37.8 million adults use tobacco products and 41 million people fall victim to secondhand smoke in their own homes in Bangladesh. This huge portion of the population, who are victims of direct or indirect tobacco use, are currently at grave risk of coronavirus infection.
The treatment of Covid-19 patients sometimes requires artificial ventilation support. If there is a continuous exponential growth in the number of patients, it may cause scarcity of ventilators and other medical equipment and facilities.
So, if the marketing and sale of tobacco products is allowed to continue during this pandemic, it would create additional pressure on the healthcare system, eventually intensifying the crisis, the eminent citizens argued in their letter.
Under this circumstance, the prime minister is urged to impose a temporary ban on the sale of cigarettes, bidis, jarda, gul and other tobacco products to protect public health.