Meanwhile, tobacco companies have been carrying out aggressive propaganda by breaking the Tobacco-Control law. To build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, it is necessary to ensure strict punishment for tobacco companies violating the law. On Thursday, 27th May, 2021, at 11.30 am, the speakers made the demand at an online meeting titled "Importance of Implementing Tobacco Control Laws During the Corona Period to Protect the Tobacco Control Law Violation” jointly organized by Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), Prottasha anti-drug organization, Young Power in Social Action and WBB Trust.
Arifur Rahman (ED, YPSA), Helal Ahmed (General Secretary, Prattasha Anti-Drug Organization), Abu Naser Khan (President, Save Environment Movement), Chotku Ahmed (Vice President, Bangladesh Film Directors Association) and Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam (Technical Adviser, The Union) addressed their thoughts at the meeting was chaired by Saifuddin Ahmed (Coordinator, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance). Abu Rayhan (Project Officer, WBB Trust) presented the keynote address at the meeting. The event was hosted by Syeda Anonna Rahman (Project Manager, WBB Trust).
In his welcome speech, Helal Ahmed said that the business of tobacco companies, which are harmful to public health, is flourishing in a world where stagnation is rampant at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no shortage in their business. Tobacco companies issued a proclamation to promote tobacco products as a commodity. We have written to the Ministry of Industry on this issue. In the light of the letter, we are informed that the tobacco product is a product of national and international reputation. Prohibiting it will have an adverse effect on the country's economy. We are not expecting such a reply to the letter from the Ministry of Industry.
Saifuddin Ahmed said the government is sincere in controlling tobacco to protect public health. He expressed hope that the tobacco control law in the country would be amended soon. The amended law should ensure strict punishment for tobacco companies violating the law. The governments as well as everyone at the local and national level have to work on tobacco control.
Abu Naser Khan said the company needed to be fined heavily for promoting tobacco products in violation of tobacco control laws. Besides, tobacco control laws need to be updated.
Chatku Ahmed said that smoking is not only harmful for the time being but it is always risky. If the harmful aspects of smoking are highlighted through the popular actor and actresses, then many people will be discouraged from smoking and the subject will become more active. Awareness about the dangers of smoking should be raised with subtitles in the film. In case of smoking scenes, tobacco control laws must be obeyed.
Md. Arifur Rahman said that the campaign of tobacco companies at the field level has increased tremendously during the Corona epidemic. Tobacco companies are breaking the law and creating new smokers in a fancy way. To stop this campaign of the companies, the tobacco control law needs to be updated.
Syed Mahbubul Alam said that tobacco companies are running advertisements and campaigns in violation of the law. But compared to that, it is not possible to bring the companies under the law. Companies should be severely punished for such crimes.
In the main article presentation, Abu Rayhan said that 35.3% of the total adult population in Bangladesh use tobacco. Males constitute 46% of the population and females 25.2%. Our financial loss due to tobacco is Tk. 30,570 crore. In Bangladesh, more than 1 lakh 61 thousand people die every year due to tobacco related diseases (Tobacco Atlas-2018). During the Corona Outbreak and Lockdown, the production and marketing of essential products including food was stopped, but taking advantage of the old law the tobacco companies continued to promote and produce tobacco products that were harmful to public health. In addition, they are promoting tobacco products in violation of tobacco control laws. Tobacco companies are collecting information from the young people through the use of various electronic devices and tempting them to use tobacco by giving free cigarettes and different types of gifts. During the Covid-19 epidemic, they have been promoting tobacco under the guise of CSR program including providing masks, PPE etc.
The meeting was attended by local representatives of Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance and NATAB from all over the country including Prattasha Anti-Drug Organization, Young Power in Social Action, Save Environment Movement, WBB Trust and organizations working on tobacco control around the country.