It is time to take steps to stop tobacco companies from interfering in public health laws and policies. In the present situation, in the light of the International Tobacco Control Agreement (FCTC), it is very important to formulate a specific guideline in this regard and formulate a code of conduct on how government officials/employees should treat tobacco companies. Speakers expressed this view in a virtual meeting this (October 9, 2020) afternoon on the occasion of National No Tobacco Day-2020.
Eight-divisional ‘Zoom Meeting’ was held titled “Resist Tobacco Company Interference in All Public Health Policies” by informing about the implementation of tobacco control laws at the local level this year, tax hikes and the impact of tobacco companies in controlling tobacco cultivation.
On the occasion of National No Tobacco Day, a zoom meeting was held at the national level along with eight divisional zoom meetings across the country. A total of 266 people including 29 government officials, 14 media personnel and local tobacco control representatives participated in the meetings. 52 areas (District and sub-district) were participated in the meeting.
Barrister Shamim Haider Patwary (Member of Parliament of Gaibandha-1), Mohammad Kamaluddin (Executive Director, NATAB), Saifuddin Ahmed (Coordinator, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance), Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam (Technical Adviser,The Union) along with others expressed their views on the program chaired by Mozaffar Hossain Paltu (Chairman, NATAB & amp; Advisor, BATA). Sharmin Akhter (Project Officer, WBB Trust) gave a power point presentation at the meeting conducted by Syeda Anonna Rahman (Program Manager, WBB Trust).
Barrister Shamim Haider Patwari MP said, Bangladesh progress in tobacco control is very good. Honble Prime Minister is very sincere and positive in tobacco control. Members of Parliament are also now more active in tobacco control than ever before. Now we have to look at formulating necessary policies and implementing existing laws and policies in this regard. Health development surcharges received from the tobacco sector should be ensured to be used in tobacco control through local organizations. At the same time, he focused on withdrawing government shares from the tobacco company as soon as possible. It is time to formulate a code of conduct on how government officials/employees should treat with the tobacco companies.
Saifuddin Ahmed said that the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance has been continuously working on tobacco control for more than 20 years which is a milestone. This year, the National No Tobacco Day celebration was a bit different due to the corona virus. Network organizations of Bangladesh Anti-tobacco Alliance have carried out various programs calling for the protection of tobacco control policies by involving government officials with the help of technology. Finally, he demanded that October 9 be officially recognized as National Tobacco Free Day.
Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam mentioned that the influence of tobacco companies has increased in recent times. Many people do not understand the tactics of the tobacco companies. Basically, the tobacco companies are misleading the officials of various government organizations to take advantage of their business. Tobacco companies have influence in various departments including the Ministry of Law. So, government officials need to be aware of this. The Prime Minister pledge to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 is a great strength for us and a landmark political commitment. We need to use this power to move forward in tobacco control.
Speaking on the occasion as the chairperson, Mozaffar Hossain Paltu said, "Tobacco has been mentioned as a cash crop in the Agriculture Marketing Act along with the pricing of tobacco by the committee of the Ministry of Agriculture." This is one of the major obstacles to the realization of the Prime Minister & dream of building a tobacco-free Bangladesh. This issue should be brought to the notice of the Prime Minister. In the past we have also faced obstacles from the tobacco companies and their affiliates but even after hundreds of setbacks, today the anti-tobacco people are on the verge of success. Thus, anti-tobacco activities need to be intensified at this time. In recent times, it has been seen that a company processing
tobacco by destroying trees and forests is conducting a public tree planting program. He termed such
activities as Acting to Pour Water on the Head by Cutting off the Roots.
Kazi Enayet Hossain (Executive Director, Scope-Barisal), Nasim Banu Shyamoli (Tobacco Control Project Head, YPSA), Mizanul Haque Sarkar (Executive Director, RDSA-Sunamganj), Abdur Rahman Rizvi (Executive Director, Projanma- Naogaon), Debashish Das (Director, Share Foundation), Amirul Islam Lintu (Executive Director, Das Bangladesh), Adv. Masum Billah (Executive Director, SEAM, Khulna), took part in the open discussion session. The meeting was attended by representatives of various online alliance organizations from different districts of the country.
According to the alliance, the social movement of the anti-tobacco alliance in Bangladesh is long. Various anti-tobacco activities have been carried out for a long time at the initiative of governmental, non-governmental and various voluntary organizations to prevent public health, environmental protection, economic loss and premature death of people.
The Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance officially started its activities on October 9, 1999 and since 2011 the Alliance has been celebrating this founding anniversary privately as the National No Tobacco Day. In view of the Corona outbreak, the Alliance is continuing its online program, conducting campaigns through social media, issuing memorandums and other activities to mark the day with due dignity.