“If we cannot stop the involvement of senior officials, we cannot make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation even in a century” – Monjurul Ahsan
The government should take immediate steps against tobacco advertisement on e-Commerce platform buyherenow.com.bd, said speakers at a webinar on Thursday.
They also called for banning corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes by tobacco companies.
The webinar titled "Malpractices of Tobacco Companies in Bangladesh" was organised by Voice, a research and rights-based organisation. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice, moderated the event, said a press release.
A keynote presentation pointed out that the pop-up advertisement of B&H was seen on buyherenow.com.bd in violation of the tobacco control law which prohibits production and dissemination of an advertisement of tobacco products through any means – including electronic media and websites.
Though there is no restriction on the sale of tobacco products online, showcasing their upcoming product of a particular brand certainly violates the law. Also, the website buyherenow consists of Benson and Hedges' brand colour, which suggests that the website has direct involvement of BATB, added the press release.
The presentation also expressed concern over the marketing tactics of tobacco companies under the garb of CSR activities.
Senior journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Nadira Kiran, co-convenor of Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance; MA Salam, grants manager of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK); Sharmeen Rahman, programme manager of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, spoke as distinguished panelists amongst others.
Bulbul, also former president of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalist, said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared to make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation by 2040. However, the involvement of senior government officials with the tobacco companies is a serious concern.
"There should be a specific law that would ban their involvement with tobacco companies and so that they can never become a member of the board of directors or join tobacco companies after their retirement. If we cannot stop the involvement of senior officials, we cannot make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation even in a century."
Nadira Kiran said, "It is time we introduce a law to ban CSR activities by tobacco companies. As tobacco companies are not allowed to use advertisements, they use their CSR activities to promote the company and the brand. If we can completely stop their CSR activities, the marketing will stop."
Sharker Shams Bin Sharif, communications officer of CTFK, said, "BATB's advertisement shown in the e-commerce website is a gross violation of the existing law.
"Tobacco companies by no way can promote or advertise their products through any platform. Also, there should be a ban on their CSR activity along with making the amendment in the tobacco control law. If they are eager to help the people of the country they can donate in government's fund, that too without issuing a press release or photograph."
The event was attended by the representatives of CSOs, NGOs, journalists and anti-tobacco activists.