Various domestic and multinational tobacco companies are continuing to advertise and promote tobacco products in more than 30 ways in violation of the Tobacco Control Act. Poor enforcement of the law is further encouraging tobacco companies to break the law. As a result, children and adolescents are being attracted to smoking in aggressive propaganda and tobacco damage and mortality are increasing. This is delaying the process of building a 'tobacco free Bangladesh' as promised by the Prime Minister. In addition, tobacco companies violating the law need to be strictly controlled to protect the health of the next generation and to implement the promises made by the prime minister.
At an exchange meeting with the media on October 3, 2021 at 11:30 am in the VIP Lounge of the National Press Club with the media entitled "Current Pictures and Actions of Tobacco Control Violations", the speakers mentioned the need for strict enforcement of the law to stop advertising of tobacco products. The meeting was jointly organized by Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), Aid Foundation, Grambangla Unnoyon Committee (GUC), National Tuberculosis Prevention Association (NATAB), Tobacco Control and Research Cell (TCRC) and Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust.
AKM Maksud (ED, GUC) read the keynote address and Syeda Anonna Rahman (Program Manager, WBB Trust) conducted the meeting chaired by Helal Ahmed (GS, Prattasha Anti-Drug Organization).
Presenting the article, AKM Maksud said that at present, the British American Tobacco Company is running most of the advertisements and campaigns in violation of the Tobacco Control Act. Besides, other tobacco companies are also advertising and promoting their products almost without any restrictions. Multiple studies conducted by GUC, NATAB, TCRC and WBB Trust have identified a total of 31 different strategies for advertising and promotion of tobacco products. Among them are using of brand colors and logos of tobacco companies with the showcase, empty packets, stickers, posters, flyers, making 'smoking zones' in restaurants, dramas, smoking scenes in movies, publicity campaigns, mobile vans and giving various gifts to the sales staff and buyers etc. Smokeless tobacco companies are not far behind. For a long time, these companies have been encouraging people to use Jorda, Gul and Khaini in various ways. In this case, misuse of religion and culture, use of names and pictures of saints / good men in the twist, illegal use of BSTI logo etc. are notable.
AKM Khalil Ullah said the role of the media in the anti-tobacco movement is undeniable. Journalists can make this movement more dynamic through their writing power for the welfare of the country and the people. In the current situation, it is important to expose the aggressive propaganda and lawlessness of tobacco companies in the media at a higher rate.
Sagufta Sultana said the country has tobacco control laws and regulations. Various anti-tobacco activities are underway in public-private initiatives. Even then, one of the main reasons for the lack of desired success in tobacco control is the government's share in tobacco companies. The government needs to take immediate action to withdraw these shares. By activating task force committees, it is important to emphasize the process of enforcing tobacco control laws by imposing fines on individuals and companies as well as rigorous imprisonment.
Gaous Pearee said it is important to promote the importance of healthy living, not tobacco advertising. In order to turn away the youth from tobacco, tobacco advertisements and campaigns have to be stopped completely. At the local level, it is important to involve government agencies in tobacco control by providing financial support. In addition, the Ministry of Local Government should work hard to introduce a 'licensing system' through the implementation of tobacco control guidelines.
Helal Ahmed said various tobacco companies are setting up thousands of mobile sales outlets in schools, colleges, markets and important places to promote tobacco products to the people. According to the law, all these places are smoke-free, but the nearby tobacco shops are undermining the purpose of the law. The real culprits are left behind in breaking the law. They should be brought under exemplary punishment and accountability. The government is sincere enough to control tobacco. He called upon all to work together to safeguard the commitment of the Honorable Prime minister.
Farhana Zaman Liza said that tobacco companies have misled people by telling stories about the discovery of Corona vaccines using tobacco leaves. The companies are exploiting the religious and cultural influences in the use of different flavors in cigarettes, bidis, attractive packaging and flashy messages and the promotion of Jorda, Gul. The rules for printing illustrated health warnings on tobacco products are not being followed properly. The country needs to take effective measures to stop e-cigarettes urgently and strengthen the monitoring system for the implementation of tobacco control laws.
Among others who spoke at the meeting were Tushar Chandan (Officer, Sampriti Society), Sharmin Akter (Program Officer, DAM), Arif Billah (Media Officer of DORP), Sheikh Noor Islam (Representative, ETV-Bangla), Kohinoor Taj Parveen (Journalist), Jebunnesa Chowdhury (Founder,Hill) etc. Representatives of BER-Dhaka University, UBINIG, DAS, Mrittika, KHRDS, ASWS, Shield, Navneeta Mahila Kalyan Samiti and various media were also present at the meeting.