Our desired goal hasn’t been achieved due to the unwarranted interference of the tobacco companies, although 15 years have passed since the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act in the country. It’s high time to formulate guidelines in accordance with the Article 5.3 of the FCTC to protect public health policy to achieve the desired results in Tobacco Control. At the same time, laws and policies that hinder tobacco control need to be updated. According to the conviction of the Hon'ble Prime Minister, there is no alternative to change the law and policy to build a "Tobacco Free Bangladesh" by 2040.
The speakers expressed their views in a live talk show titled "Company’s Interfearcnce: Challenges in Achieving Desired Goals in Tobacco Control" organized by Work for a better Bangladesh Trust on 23rd June, 2021.
Farida Akhter (Convener, Tabinaz), Iqbal Masud (Director, Health and Wash Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Misson), Adv. Syed Mahbubul Alam (TA, The Union) and Syeda Anonna Rahman (Program Manager, WBB Trust) were present as guest speakers on the talk show hosted by Abu Rayhan (Project Officer, Work for a better Bangladesh Trust).
Farida Akhter said that, Government is discouraging the use of tobacco. On the other hand, Govt. is encouraging the companies to produce these products by giving them state awards. It's a kind of duality. It is important for the Government to take appropriate steps to control smokeless tobacco companies. At the same time Government shares should be withdrawn from tobacco companies.
Iqbal Masud said that, despite the demands and specific proposals of public health experts, the tax on tobacco products has not been increased in the budget of 2021-22 because the tobacco companies are using their tactics behind it. ‘World Health Organization Empower Policy Package’ emphasizes Tobacco Tax Rise. So, to control the tobacco in the real sense, we amend to continue the efforts to amend the law and integrate taxes.
Adv. Syed Mahabubul Alam said that, the rapid transfer of officials in charge of certain tobacco control departments is a big challenge for us. Many policies including tobacco cultivation control policy, tobacco free Bangladesh Roadmap, National tobacco Control Program has been formulated for a long time at the initiative of the Ministry of Health. It is being prolonged for some unknown reason. Those should be finalized as soon as possible and as a signatory to the FCTC, guidelines should be formulated in accordance with Article 5.3.
According to Syeda Anonna Rahman, there are still a number of laws and regulations in place in Bangladesh that are hampering tobacco control. As promised by the Hon'ble Prime Minister, in order to achieve the desired goal of tobacco control in Bangladesh, these laws of the old fashioned laws need to be made people-friendly and up-to-date with the focus on health. As reported by FCTC, various countries in the world have taken exemplary steps to protect the policy from the influence of tobacco companies. We can follow those steps to achieve the goals.