MPs, public health experts, doctors, economists and anti-tobacco activists have called for the speedy finalisation of the amendment to the tobacco control law to protect public health.
They made the call at a discussion on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, the achievements and the way forward.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress), National Heart Foundation, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, DORP and Unnayan Shamannay organised the discussion at a Dhaka hotel on Monday, according to a statement from the organisers.
Speakers at the discussion said that as a result of anti-tobacco activities of the government, tobacco use has declined by 18.5 percent in 2017 compared to 2009.
While this reduction in tobacco use within such a short time reflects the government's success, it is not enough to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.
Due to some loopholes in the tobacco control law, such as the provision of designated smoking areas in public places and transports, display of tobacco products at pointsof sales, corporate social responsibility activities of tobacco companies, loose sales of tobacco products and sales of new types of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, the law is unable to play an effective role in reducing tobacco use.
Currently, the prevalence of tobacco use stands at 35.3 percent, or 37.8 million of the adult population. Tobacco claims 161,000 lives in Bangladesh every year. Hundreds of thousands more fall ill and suffer from a wide range of disabilities due to tobacco use.
Tobacco-related deaths and injuries will continue to increase as long as there is a delay in imposing strictness on tobacco use through legislative amendments.
Some of the proposals included in the draft amendment are eliminating Designated Smoking Areas in all public places and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products, banning so-called corporate social responsibility programmes of tobacco companies, banning the sale of loose tobacco products, banning the production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping products and increasing the area allotted for graphic health warning on packets of cigarette to 90 percent from existing 50 percent.
MPs Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Habibe Millat and Shameem Haider Patwary, Additional Health Secretary Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, Yolonda Richardson, executive vice-president of global programmes at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Vandana Shah, vice-president of Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Md Mostafizur Rahman, lead policy advisor to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Bangladesh, Professor Abdul Malik, founder and president of the National Heart Foundation, former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman, and representatives of Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance or ATMA and anti-tobacco organisations attended the event.