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Mobile courts: An innovative approach to implementing tobacco control law

Bangladesh passed a tobacco control law in 2005. One important initiative for implementation is mobile courts. Mobile courts operate by bringing the court (magistrate) to the offender, rather than vice versa. They involve legal action with limited power performed instantly and mobile; the law defines which acts it can address. While often used for violations involving food, mobile courts also play a vital role in implementing the tobacco control law.

Enforcement requires effective monitoring. In Bangladesh, NGOs monitor tobacco company activities and submit reports to government on law violation. Legal authority, with the help of a mobile court, can then remove illegal tobacco advertisements and charge companies for law violation, and fine those smoking in prohibited areas.

Mobile courts have played a significant role in removing illegal cigarette advertisements at retail shops. Mobile courts also contribute to creating mass awareness. Smoking has been banned in most public places and public transport but lack of awareness hampers implementation. Running mobile courts increases awareness of the law and encourages people to respect it, contributing to creation of more smoke free places.

Though framing law is the duty of government, it is the duty of all to help in implementation. It is difficult for government alone to ensure proper compliance and enforcement. Mobile courts, supported by monitoring by NGOs to identify violations, serve as a useful device for law implementation in Bangladesh. They also can raise awareness that will increase compliance and thus make law enforcement easier and more successful.