DCTOH 2020: Demands for amendment of TC laws & the imposition of specific taxes on tobacco products
Domestic and foreign tobacco companies are waging a massive campaign to encourage young people to use tobacco, ignoring existing laws. At the same time, the abundance of cheap tobacco products is further motivating people to use tobacco, which will hamper the government's dream of building a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040. In order to prevent adolescents from using tobacco as the main gateway to drugs, it is necessary to amend the Tobacco Control Act and impose a specific tax to increase the price of tobacco products. Delegates attending the first-ever Dhaka Conference on Tobacco or Health 2020 (DCTOH 2020) held at the National Liberation War Museum on 27th February 2021 made this demand to the Government by declaring tobacco control in the light of various studies. The conference was attended by 250 representatives from more than 120 organizations across the country, presenting research papers through 20 oral and 28 poster presentations, respectively. Conference organized by 31 national/international organizations.
The conference was attended by live and virtual guests Kelly Henning, (Director of public health, Bloomberg Philanthropies), Joanna Cohen (Director of Health), Zillur Rahman Chowdhury (Coordinator, NTCC & JS, Health Services Department), Dr. Habibe Millat MP, Barrister Shamim Haider MP, Aroma Dutta MP attended live and virtually at the conference presided over by former ambassador and conference convener Kamal Uddin. Aminul Islam Bakul (Advisor, DAS) and Dr. Sarwar Ali (Trustee, Liberation War Museum) gave a welcome speech on the occasion. Kazi Jebunnesa Begum (Additional Secretary, Department of Health Services, Ministry of Health), Asish Pandey (DD, The Union), Syed Mahbubul Alam (TA, The Union), AKM Maksud (Member Secretary, DCOTH) attended at the closing ceremony presided over by Mozaffar Ahmed Paltu, President of NATAB.
The keynote address was delivered by Abul Kalam Azad (Chief Secretary to the former Prime Minister's Office and Special Envoy of Climate Vulnerable Forum) at the Plenary Session of the conference presided over by Mohammad Ruhul Quddus (Public Health Specialist). Also present at the session were Iqbal Masood (Director, Department of Health, Dhaka Ahsania Mission) and Saifuddin Ahmed (Coordinator, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance) were attended at the session as negotiators. At the meeting, an initiative was taken to amend the Smoking and Tobacco Products (Use) Act-2005. Where it is recommended to ban the production, distribution, marketing, purchase, and sale of e-cigarettes / vaping / HTP. It is also recommended to repeal the provision of smoking places, use of smoking and tobacco products in public places and public transport, any campaign activities of tobacco companies in educational institutions, ban on display of tobacco products in sales places.
Mandating licensing of tobacco products, increasing health warnings with photographs, banning retail sales, ensuring production date of packaging, ensuring standard packaging of smokeless tobacco products, formulating policies to curb tobacco company influence. It is recommended to make provision for direct filing of cases in case of violation of the Tobacco Control Act and to increase the number of fines as per the provisions of the Act.
At the meeting, 16 demands were presented to the government in the Dhaka Tobacco Control Declaration to reduce tobacco use by 2040. These include formulating policies to discourage domestic and foreign investment by tobacco companies or incorporating them into existing policies, finalizing a draft national tobacco control program, adopting a draft national tobacco control policy, approving a draft national tobacco cultivation control policy, and reducing tobacco use in the country through tax hikes. It also called for the approval of a draft guideline prepared in accordance with Article 5.3 to stop the interference of tobacco companies in the tobacco control policy. It is recommended to form a "Health Promotion Foundation" to strengthen the immune system through sustainable or continued funding, and to take strict action in accordance with existing laws to stop the illegal activities of tobacco companies. It is also recommended to finalize the organogram to strengthen the National Tobacco Control Cell, to strengthen the Tobacco Tax Cell of the National Board of Revenue, to abolish the complex tax structure of tobacco products, and to impose a specific tax on tobacco products.
Professor Dr. Sohail Reza Chowdhury (Departmental Head, Research & Epistemology, National Heart Foundation), Prof. Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruk (Program Head, Tobacco Control, Bangladesh Cancer Society), Ishrat Chowdhury (Add. Secretary, Home Ministry), Mr. Hamidur Rahman Khan (Dep. Secretary & Technical Consultant, The Union), Md Sahzahan (Chairman & ED, BCCP), Prof. Dr. Rumana Haque (Economics Department, Dhaka University), Mr. Shamimul Islam (Asst. Director & Team Leader, Tobacco Control, BCCP), SM Abdullah (Asst. Prof, Economics Department, Dhaka University), Dr. Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiya (Program Manager, National Heart Foundation), Dr. Nizam Uddin Ahmed (ED, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation), Helal Ahmed (Secretary, Prottasha Anti-drug Organization) and other prominent tobacco control activist were attended at the research sessions.