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Ministries concerned need to have a clear plan for tobacco control

If the concerned ministries have their own plans to build a tobacco free Bangladesh, it is possible to achieve the desired goal by 2040 as per the conviction of Hon'ble Prime Minister. The WBB Trust filed RTIs under the Right to Information Act with various ministries for the purpose of collecting information as part of conducting research activities in 2021-22 on "what kind of plans a ministry has in tobacco control". The research paper, prepared in the light of the information received from the Ministries, was published today, April 26, 2022, at 11 am in a meeting titled 'Current Context and Needs in Tobacco Control', a joint venture of 'Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance' and 'Work for a Better Bangladesh' (WBB) Trust. Md. Arif Hossain, Project Officer, WBB Trust, presented the keynote address at the event, chaired by Aminul Islam Bakul, Advisor, Development Activities of Society (DAS) and conducted by Syeda Ananya Rahman, Head, Health Rights Department, Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust.

According to the research paper, tobacco control is impossible without the efforts of the Ministry of Health alone. The Ministries of Agriculture, Finance, Home Affairs, etc. are involved in issues like control of tobacco cultivation, tax hike, law enforcement, etc. Tobacco companies often take advantage of the lack of specific plans to control tobacco in various ministries. In order to make the commitment to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh a reality by the year 2040, it is necessary for the concerned ministries to have their own plans for formulating a comprehensive tobacco control plan, stop company interfer
ence and improve public health.
A review of the 33 RTIs obtained shows that 45% (15) of the ministries have specific plans for tobacco control. 55% i.e. 16 ministries have no plan. The plans of 6 ministries are limited to setting up no-smoking places and signs. There is a plan of 1 ministry to formulate strategies and designated places for smoking. Of the three ministries, three ministries mentioned alternative economic arrangements for tobacco growers, two ministries mentioned plans to include public awareness on smoking and tobacco control in textbooks, and one ministry was limited to producing concerts, fillers and documents on the evils of smoking. 
Speakers at the meeting said that the relevant ministries have specific plans for tobacco control and the license to sell unhealthy products like tobacco needs to be made compulsory. The government needs to provide accurate information about the misleading propaganda of the tobacco companies such as the fact that the tobacco companies pay huge amount of revenue to the government and if the tobacco tax increases then the smuggling will increase. In order to succeed in controlling tobacco, the government needs to present the true picture of the company's intervention and take steps to withdraw government shares from the tobacco company. The meeting focused on formulating specific plans and implementations for each ministry, coordinating each ministry in tobacco control, and ensuring the formulation of a code of conduct for ministry and department officials.
The discussion was attended by Shagufta Sultana, Project Director, Aid Foundation, Hamidul Islam Hillol, Program Manager, Bureau of Economic Research, and Md. S
elim, Shield Executive Director Md. Mahbub Alam Firoz, KHRDS Executive Officer Syeda Shamima Sultana, DAS Program Officer Rabiul Alam Liton, Integrated Development Forum Chairman and Executive Director S. M. Shafiul Azam and representative of Gram Bangla Development Committee Sharika Tabassum Mithila were present.