Bangladesh government's commitment to build a tobacco-free country by 2040 is under real threat. A real example of this is the tobacco companies setting up smoking zones in various restaurants at their own finance. The companies are also promoting their products in various ways, including research and advertising for tobacco. Representatives of civil society have expressed concern over the incident. 49% of the total population of Bangladesh is young. If it is possible to attract a young person to this addiction, then a long term consumer is created for the company. Note that according to Global Youth Tobacco Survey-2013, 5% of 13-15 year olds in Bangladesh consume tobacco products and this number is constantly increasing. It is imperative to implement the Tobacco Control Act and adopt a definite action plan to overcome these problems.
In view of this, WBB Trust and Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) jointly organized an exchange of views on 18th May 2022, at 11.00 am at the Tafazzal Hossain Manik Mia Hall of the National Press Club titled “Need for Implementation of Tobacco Control Laws to Protect Youth”. Samiul Hasan Shajib (Project Officer, WBB Trust) presented the keynote address at the event was chaired by Gauss Pierre (Director, WBB Trust) and conducted by Syeda Anonna Rahman (Head of program, TC;NCD, WBB Trust). In his presentation of the article, he gave various directions to address the challenges of implementing the Tobacco Control Act.
Hossain Ali Khondakar (Coordinator-Additional Secretary, NTCC), Mozaffar Hossain Paltu (Adviser, BATA; President, NATAB), Shafiqul Islam (Head of program, Vital Strategies Bangladesh), Ad. Syed Mahbubul Alam (TA, The Union), Helal Ahmed (GS, Prattasha Anti-Drug Organization; Acting Coordinator, BATA) and Dr. Shihab Uddin (Assistant Health Officer, DSCC) were presented at the meeting as the distinguished guests.
Hossain Ali Khandaker said the draft guidelines have been finalized in the light of the Tobacco Control Act and FCTC-5.3. The National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) is being finalized as well as policies are being formulated to provide financial assistance to organizations working at the local level.
Lawyer and policy analyst Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin said various studies have shown that British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) is creating separate smoking zones to attract young people to tobacco in restaurants set up in various elite areas of Dhaka city. He strongly demanded that the company be held directly accountable.
Mozaffar Hossain Paltu said that in order to achieve effective success in tobacco control, the existing shares of the government should be withdrawn from the company. We need to increase publicity campaigns to make people aware of the harmful effects of tobacco and involve the general public in these activities. He added that it would play a major role in tobacco control if 50% of the fines for smoking in public places were paid to the officer in charge.
Moreover, Sagufta Sultana (Project Director, Aid Foundation), Seema Das Shimu (Director, Ubinig), Hamidul Islam Hillol (Program Manager, BER, DU), Farhana Zaman Liza (Project Manager, TCRC), AKM Khalil Ullah (Project Coordinator, NATAB), SM Shafiul Azam (Chairman, IDF), Atika Hossain (ED, Navnita), Syeda Shamima Sultana (CEO, KHRDS), Mehnaz Parveen (ED, Cosmos), Khairun Nahar Shilpi (Treasurer, Bangladesh Girls Guide Association), officials of various local organizations and number of media persons were present at the event.