The Ministry of Industries has said that it is not in favour of banning tobacco-related products during this coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry cleared its stance on the issue in a press statement issued on Wednesday.
It said that various agencies have published reports on banning tobacco products in the country quoting Industries Minister Nurul Mazid Muhammad Humayun, which had caught the ministry's attention and led it to issue the press statement.
During the early stages of the coronavirus shutdown, in response to applications from two tobacco companies, the ministry sent two official letters on April 3 and 5, requesting the authorities concerned to provide necessary assistance to the companies.
The ministry said that according to the Control of Essential Commodities Act 1956, tobacco products have been listed as essential commodities.
Taking this into account, the ministry sent those official letters to the authorities concerned, requesting assistance for supply and transportation of tobacco products during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then again, the ministry said that it fully supports the prime minister's goal to declare Bangladesh as a non-smoking country by 2041, and is working towards that.
The ministry also stated that it fully supports the purpose, goal and intention of the National Tobacco Control Cell under the division of health of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
But the ministry argued that banning tobacco products in the country will not reduce the number of smokers during this pandemic.
Smokers smoke tobacco knowing the health risks. The only thing that can help smokers quit smoking is motivation and awareness. So, a smoker will continue to smoke regardless of the ban on tobacco products, the ministry added.
Banning tobacco products will encourage black marketers to sell those illegally and the country will lose revenues it earns from this huge sector. tobacco production is one of the biggest industrial sectors of the country and earnings of many people, including farmers and factory workers, depend on it.
The tobacco industry also brings in a lot of foreign direct investments.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the economies of countries all around the world are under pressure and are facing trouble. Our economy is not an exception to that. Banning these products will put a negative impact on foreign investors and will result in job and revenue losses, the statement said.
Taking all these circumstances into account, the Ministry of Industries thinks that it will be reasonable to keep the tobacco industry running in compliance with the overall health regulations.
The ministry said that it is possible to build a non-smoking Bangladesh through mass awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption. It hopes that the National Tobacco Control Cell will take necessary motivational activities as per the demand of the time.