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Tobacco companies need to be countered to protect public health
Although 15 years have passed since the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act in Bangladesh, due to the unwarranted interference of tobacco companies in the policy, the tobacco control activities have not yet achieved the desired target. Although the Prime Minister has vowed to reduce tobacco use by 2040, the government's involvement in tobacco companies is in direct conflict with its commitment to make Bangladesh tobacco-free. This is because the tobacco companies have been taking advantage of the government's presence in the tobacco companies for a long time to create obstacles in the formulation of policies that support the protection of public health.
It is important to stop the intervention of tobacco companies in order to improve public health, the harmful effects of tobacco in human life, to stop the aggressive activities of tobacco companies and to achieve the desired goals in tobacco control. In order to implement the positive declaration of the Prime Minister, it is necessary to take a long-term plan from now on, besides withdrawing the government's current stake in the tobacco company. In this situation, it is important to take timely steps and strengthen the overall tobacco control program.
The speakers expressed their views at a strategic meeting organized by the WBB Trust and the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance on an online platform today, April 13, 2022, considering these issues. Samiul Hasan Sajib, Project Officer, WBB Trust, presented the keynote address at the meeting, which was chaired by Syeda Ananya Rahman, Divisional Head (Health Rights Division), WBB Trust. Also speaking were Shagufta Sultana, Project Director, Aid Foundation, Ibrahim Khalil, Bureau of Research, Elias Hossain, Executive Director, Three Star A, Jubayer Ahmed, Executive Director, SDS A, Prof. Md. Amirul Islam Lintu, President of Generation Human Rights Center Abdur Rahman Rizvi, Executive Director of Social Advancement Forum (SAF) Mir Abdur Razzak, Executive Director of Development for Disadvantaged People (DDP) Kazi Sohel Rana, General Secretary of Siam Many more.
Syeda Ananya Rahman said that reducing tobacco use is one of the goals of the government in improving public health. But in spite of various positive steps taken by the government to control tobacco, at present the companies are carrying out maximum advertisements and campaigns in violation of tobacco control laws. These include showcases with branded colors and logos of the tobacco company at the sales center, placing empty packets, stickers, posters, flyers, creating 'smoking zones' in restaurants, promoting smoking scenes in dramas and movies, publicity campaigns, giving gifts to salespeople and buyers. One of them. Smokeless tobacco companies are not far behind. Tobacco companies are violating the law and interfering in various ways to make more profit, expand business and reap various benefits. Aggressive behavior of companies is creating obstacles to law enforcement and creating serious risks to public health.
 Kazi Enayet Hossain said that in order to stop the current activities of JTI, we can give a memorandum to the Ambassador of Japan in Bengali, English and Japanese as well as make videos with significant news. We can display this video in the committee of the task force. We can take a stand against the tobacco company before the National Board of Revenue. Conducting anti-tobacco campaigns in areas where tobacco is being cultivated. We must make the tobacco control movement a success through more letter campaigns, memorabilia, and publicity campaigns.
Kazi Sohail Rana said that in order to implement the positive declaration of the Prime Minister, a long-term plan needs to be adopted from now on to ensure withdrawal of the government's current stake in the tobacco company. Importance should be given to ban unnecessary communication with tobacco companies, transparency, protective measures, participation of tobacco companies in policy making process, social responsibility activities of tobacco companies. Anti-tobacco organizations need to be held accountable for controlling tobacco, including banning government representatives from participating in awards ceremonies, withdrawing all benefits to these companies, and closing down new foreign investment opportunities. And for these works, there must be coordination between the concerned government and non-government organizations.
Shagufta Sultana said that in order to control the sale of tobacco, it can be controlled by bringing tobacco under licensing. The local government has issued a guideline stating that we can control the use of any product through the licensing system. Ministry of Local Government, City Corporation, Municipality will issue the license. We can bring tobacco sales under zoning through licensing system. If we want to move towards SDG roads, we must control tobacco. Licensing systems are in place in Europe, America, India and even Nepal. Tobacco outlets are set up in all the places where young people gather to attract the youth. The licensing system can be used to control tobacco shops in the vicinity of the school and college. Local government mind