Dr ABM Abdullah, the personal physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and professor emeritus, has stressed the urgent need for amending the Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products (Control) Act in order to address the alarming number of premature deaths caused by tobacco product use.
Speaking during a discussion titled "Current situation and actions of the tobacco control law," organised by the Bangladesh Health Reporters Forum at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) hall room, he revealed that the country witnesses approximately 450 tobacco-related deaths daily.
Dr Abdullah said, "Without a law, people tend to act unjustly. With a law in place, people will have a sense of fear. Businesspeople prioritise their own interests. However, the amount of revenue the government receives from this sector, a several-fold higher amount is spent on treating tobacco-related illnesses."
He further added, "Cigarettes harm the entire body from head to toe. There needs to be a law to combat smoking. Having a law will create obstacles. Even then, this law must be effectively implemented. Tobacco, jarda, and gul — all of these should be banned."
Professor Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), emphasised the need to raise public awareness about the dangers of tobacco. He called for a ban on the sale of bidis and single-stick cigarettes in shops and suggested including cautionary messages about smoking in government advertisements and health-related campaigns.
Dr Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general (Planning and Development) of the DGHS, proposed increasing taxes on tobacco products to make them less affordable for ordinary people. He believed that by doubling the taxes, an addition TK8-10 billon could be added to the health budget from the tobacco sector.
Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of Department of Epidemiology and Research at National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, mentioned, "Around 3.78 crore adults in our country use tobacco. Moreover, 3.84 crore adults are affected by second-hand smoke in workplaces, public places, and public transportations. Therefore, it is not possible to protect passive smokers from harm by designating 'smoking areas' as per the existing law. Hence, the provision of the law regarding designated smoking areas should be revoked."