Tobacco poses a serious threat to the public health and economy of Bangladesh. Smokers experience a variety of physical and emotional harms. Smoking for 14 minutes every day reduces life expectancy (WHO).
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 56,000 people die of tobacco-related diseases in Bangladesh every year. About four lakh people are crippled. In 2003, the Government of Bangladesh signed the FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), an international treaty initiated by the World Health Organisation to reduce the prevalence of tobacco.
In compliance with the provisions of the agreement, the government later enacted the Tobacco Control Act in 2005. But due to some weaknesses, the Act could not play an effective role. Therefore, in May 2013, the Act got amended. The last Tobacco Control Rules 2015 were passed in the light of the amended law. The amended Act 2013 and Rules 2015 have made strict provisions to protect all smokers, including women and children, from secondhand smoke.
According to the section 4 under Tobacco Control Amendment Act 2013, smoking in public places and public transport has been completely banned. The amended law includes private offices in the definition of a public place and the penalty has been increased from Tk50 to Tk300.
Tobacco Control Amendment Act 2013 also includes the use of smoke-free products such as roses, Jorda, khaini and white leaves by sucking and chewing. The law was amended in parliament to increase the fines for smoking in public places by six times to Tk300, as well as to make mandatory the printing of health warnings with pictures on half the surface of the packet of tobacco products.
At the same time, a provision was made in the amended law to ban the advertisement of tobacco products and the sale of tobacco products to minors. Tobacco Control Amendment Act 2013 prohibits direct and indirect advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. Violation of this provision is punishable by imprisonment for not more than three months or a fine not exceeding one lakh taka under section-5(4) of this Act.
Although the Act strictly mentions do's and don'ts, the consumers are reluctant to accept it. Besides, many people have no idea about this Act.
The media can do the job of making people aware of the law and rules. Also, dramatists and filmmakers can be a little more careful. Smoking scenes should not be shown. Young people can be affected by seeing cigarettes in the hands of the hero.
Although there is talk of a smoke-free environment, it is almost absent in reality. Women and children suffer the most because of this. There should be signboards marking such areas. Sometimes people ignore such signs. Supervision is very important in these cases.
The biggest opponents of tobacco control are tobacco companies. They pay people to grow tobacco. There are provisions in the Act to control them. These should be strictly enforced. Ministries need to work together to control smoking.
With the passing of the rules, it is very important for people at all levels to be aware of this issue, to facilitate the implementation of the law. It is important to ban the sale of bidi-cigarette spray and open smokeless tobacco products, to ban the sale and import of all vaping and heated tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and to increase the size of illustrated health warnings. It is possible to control this product which is harmful to health only through strict implementation of laws. But due to the negligence of those concerned, the Act has not been implemented yet.
Young people need to come forward to properly implement the tobacco control law and raise awareness. It is the duty of all of us to actively cooperate with the government in implementing this law to strengthen tobacco control activities in the country. We all have a role to play. Law enforcement agencies as well as parents need to be aware. In order to control tobacco, the family must first come forward to implement the law.