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Tobacco: Taking on the silent killer

Published: June 21, 2019 21:12:36


Highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption, the 'World No Tobacco Day' was observed in Bangladesh on June 20. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and global partners observe the 'World No Tobacco Day' (WNTD) on May 31 every year. But the country observed the day on June 20 this year. The focus of the 'World No Tobacco Day' 2019 was on 'Tobacco and Lung Health'. The campaign was aimed at increasing awareness mainly about the negative impacts of tobacco on lung health ranging from cancer to chronic respiratory diseases.

The slogan of the day was 'Don't Let Tobacco Take Your Breath Away. Choose Health Not Tobacco'. Experts emphasised that the authorities concerned execute the laws and regulations properly and create awareness about prevention of tobacco consumption. To this end the government of Bangladesh amended the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act, 2005 in 2013 and formulated the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Rule, 2015, and in addition, one per cent surcharge has been imposed on the selling price of tobacco products from the fiscal year 2014-2015. Different government and non-government organisations, WHO and National Tobacco Control Cell, Health Services Division, have taken several initiatives to observe the day.

 Bangladesh is one of the most important countries where the price of tobacco products is cheaper, opines WHO. Smoking and the use of tobacco products undoubtedly are pushing the country and the nation towards terrible consequences. As per the updated information of Tobacco Atlas Bangladesh, more than 7.0 million people die every year in the world because of tobacco consumption. In Bangladesh about 161,000 people die every year due to tobacco-related diseases. They also provide information that about 172,000 adolescent and children aged 10-14 years and 20.49 million people aged 15+ are using tobacco on a daily basis.

The more dangerous thing is that in Bangladesh the death rate is increasing day by day due to use of tobacco. The country also faces increasing economic losses due to tobacco-related illnesses and premature death. Moreover, the annual financial loss of tobacco consumption in Bangladesh is about Tk 30,570 billion. Currently, in the country, more than 1.5 million men and women and more than 61,000 children are affected due to indirect tobacco smoking. The tobacco industry, through clever strategies, has been in quest to continue the tobacco product promotion in order to influence children, adolescents and the youth of the country. 

Recently Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) has conducted a study on 'Big Tobacco Tiny Target in Bangladesh' with the technical support of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK). This is to see the promotional strategies that the tobacco industry adopted especially for the vendors within 100 yards of educational institutions and playgrounds. The study findings are that 90.50 per cent of schools and playgrounds were found selling tobacco products within its 100-meter radius, and 81.87 per cent of the points of sales displayed tobacco products at children's eye level (approximately 1 metre) and 64.19 per cent of the tobacco products are being displayed beside candy, sweets or toys. Tobacco products were being advertised and displayed in 82.17 per cent of the points of sales selling tobacco products around the selected schools and playgrounds.

Tobacco Industries (TIs) are discreetly disregarding Tobacco Control Law (TCL) of the land. This the TIs do sometimes by just overlooking TCL, sometimes by influencing the formulation of government policies and most of the time by lingering the formulation processes of tobacco control policies in their own interest. The government needs to be more alert regarding such tactics of the TIs so that the people may be saved from the tobacco menace.  

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre. sarwarmdskhaled@gmail.com

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