Anti-tobacco groups have called for amendments to the tobacco control law for the overall benefit of the public health and environment.
A human chain was held in front of the National Press Club on Thursday (4 February) to mark World Cancer Day. The event was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, Stamford University and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB).
Speakers at the human chain said that tobacco is one the reasons of some of the most lethal non-communicable diseases, including cancer. The government of Bangladesh has taken various steps to control non-communicable diseases with a focus on public health. But some special interest groups are working - directly and indirectly - for the tobacco companies.
They said there is ambiguity in some aspects of the existing tobacco law, which tobacco companies are benefitting from.
According to the speakers, tobacco is harmful to both human health and the environment. Large forest areas are being destroyed due to tobacco.
They said that a terrible disaster will befall national life if a safe environment cannot be ensured for the next generation.
Professor Kamruzzaman Majumder, chairman of the Department of Environmental Sciences, Stamford University, said, "It is unfortunate that tobacco is still mentioned as a lucrative crop in fifth and eighth grade textbooks. The existing tobacco control laws are not effective, and it is high time that they are changed and refined."
Helal Ahmed, general secretary of the anti-drug organisation Protyasha, said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared that tobacco will be eradicated from the country by 2041. But there is no clear statement in the plan on how this will be implemented."
"We should immediately start a mass movement to stop tobacco production. 162,000 people are killed by smoking every year, so we must hold the tobacco companies accountable for murder. If tobacco companies are not controlled, the government will not be able to fulfil its goal of building a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2041," he added.
IWB representative Anam Masum Billah, WBB Trust programme manager Syeda Ananya Rahman, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA)'s programme manager Nazmul Haider, Tobacco Control & Research Cell (TCRC)'s programme manager Mohiuddin Russell and others were also present at the human chain.