Motiur Rahman used to have a poultry farm in the Trishal area of Mymensingh. The chain-smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, and was brought to Dhaka and admitted to a private clinic.
But Motiur did not survive and passed away at the age of 52. After his death his family discovered that they were trapped in loans taken for the medical expenses of the breadwinner.
Like Motiur, as many as 1.26 lakh people die of tobacco related diseases in Bangladesh every year, which amounts to 13.5 percent of the total deaths. Besides, smoking linked diseases cost the country Tk30,570 crore annually, which was 1.4 percent of the total gross domestic product of the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The Bangladesh Cancer Society revealed this information in its research published in February this year.
The research, titled "Tobacco Related Diseases and Bangladesh Facing Losses of Premature Deaths Due to Tobacco Consumption", said more than 70 lakh adults are suffering from tobacco related diseases in the country.
Among them, nearly 15 lakh people are directly linked to tobacco consumption. Moreover, as many as 61,000 children are victims of passive smoking.
Doctors said tobacco consumption is increasing the incidence of non-communicable diseases including cardiac diseases, stroke and cancer.
The head of the Epidemiology and Research Department of the National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, Prof Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, told The Business Standard that the country should adopt and implement the national tobacco control policy immediately for the sake of public health.
The Cancer Society research said adults consuming tobacco products are nearly 57 percent more susceptive to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cardiac diseases and stroke.
Besides, tobacco consumption increases the chance of getting cancer by 109 percent.
The research carried out by the Cancer Society covered 10,000 families across the country through the cluster sampling method. As many as 2,600 families among the sample had at least one member with at least one disease of seven top tobacco issues.
The research analysed the data of 988 people, including their medical expenditure, job location and income of the patient and family.
Prof Dr Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, the joint secretary of the society, led the research. He told The Business Standard that the incidence of tobacco related diseases, deaths and financial losses are on the rise.
He advocated slapping more tax on tobacco products and hiking the price further. The professor believes this policy will help slash the number of tobacco users.
He said, "Currently more than 18 lakh people consume tobacco in many forms. The government needs to reduce the number to declare Bangladesh tobacco free by 2040. And raising the prices is a must in this regard."
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said, tobacco, a leading risk factor for several non-communicable diseases, is a global public health concern. Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people worldwide every year. This includes almost 900,000 deaths of non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke.
In Bangladesh, the burden from tobacco is alarming: 35% of adults are currently using tobacco either in smoked and/or in smokeless form. Furthermore, 43% and 39% of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke at their workplaces and in their homes, respectively. Seven percent of youths aged 13 to 15 years use tobacco, said WHO.
Tobacco kills up to half its users and causes premature mortality and morbidity, contributes to health inequalities and exacerbates poverty. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017 revealed the social gradient in tobacco use in Bangladesh in which prevalence increases with decreasing socioeconomic status: 24% of those in the highest wealth quintile use tobacco compared to 48% of those in the lowest wealth quintile, where households are more at risk of suffering catastrophic health expenditure and impoverishment through high healthcare costs from tobacco-related diseases, loss of productivity and opportunity costs.
Misconception about tobacco economics
The tobacco industry has been claiming that it contributes a lot to the country's revenue and employment. But the statistics of the National Board of Revenue say that Tk22,810 crore came from the tobacco industry in the 2017-18 fiscal year, while the cost of treating tobacco related diseases came to Tk30,570 crore.