Aiming to implement the existing tobacco control law to prevent the illegal promotion of tobacco and tobacco products, stopping the use of tobacco and demanding the adoption of the FCTC article 5.3 directives during all sorts of commercial activities undertaken by tobacco companies, a Policy Dialogue titled ‘Tobacco Cos’ Tricky Tactics and Law Violation: Our Responsibilities to Protect Public Health’, with the joint initiative of PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA), has been held at the VIP lounge of the National Press Club, Dhaka. Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the Parliament Member for Dhaka-9 constituency attended the event as the chief guest, while Dr. Habibe Millat, Parliament Member of Sirajganj-2 constituency with Abul Kalam Mohammad Ahsanul Haque Chowdhury of Rangpur-2 constituency, and Md. Nabi Newaz of Jhenidah-3 constituency were the special guests at the Policy Dialogue. WHO Technical Officer (Tobacco Control) in Bangladesh, Dr. Mahfuzul Huq, Taifur Rahman- Country Director (Bangladesh) for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), former coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) under Health and Family Welfare Ministry – Amin Ul Ahsan were the special discussants at the event. Md. Hasan Shahriar, Coordinator of PROGGA presented the key note at the Policy Dialogue and it was presided over by Mozammel Hossain, Editor of the Daily Shokaler Khabor, and it was moderated by Nadira Kiron, Co-convener of ATMA.
It was said at the dialogue that although there are strict restrictions in Bangladesh over tobacco products’ advertisements, promotions and sponsorship, there are no such legal restrictions about stopping the allurements and nosiness of the tobacco companies. Consequently, the tobacco companies are adopting different innovative tricky techniques across the country to expand their business. They are also hampering the tobacco control law implementation. Although the FCTC Article 5.3 directs the government to formulate necessary rules and regulations to prevent the tobacco companies’ interference, there are no reflections of the directives in the law. As a result, the law could not bring the desired result and the public health is getting damaged. According to WHO (2004), around 57,000 people die as the direct result of tobacco use and around 382,000 people turn crippled.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP, Dhaka-9 at his speech said that tobacco companies are unusual companies that sell products to hasten the death of humans. So, they are very cunningly violating the existing tobacco control law and promoting their products and leading the youths and the public health as well towards hazards. He urged the authority to stringently apply the tobacco control law. By the same time, he also demanded to formulate a ‘National Tobacco Control Policy’ which will be able to reduce the demands of tobacco, and on the other side it will be effective to control the production too.
Besides, he also underscored to allocate budget for the National Tobacco Control Cell (under the Health Ministry) so that the activities undertaken by the government could be implemented effectively. He also promised to continue work under the `National Platform’ and placing tobacco tax related proposal in the upcoming Parliament Session for the National Budget 2015-16.
Dr. Habibe Millat MP Sirajganj-2, in his speech said that the existing law should be strictly enforced to stop the advertisements and promotions of tobacco products and simultaneously social campaigns should be undertaken to familiarize the rules and regulations of the law among the commoners to get the best result of the law. Abul Kalam Mohammad Ahsanul Haque MP, Rangpur-2 constituency said that declaration of tobacco products’ sale ban beside the educational institutions is a must to save the youths from the tobacco aggression. Mr. Md. Nabi Newaz MP of Jhenidah-3 constituency said, we want to save people as we are law makers, and thus we will work together to control tobacco both inside and outside of the Parliament.
Panel discussant, at the event, Dr Mahfuzul Huq, Technical Officer (Tobacco Control) of WHO said that around 300 to 400 crore taka has been being earned from the 1 percent health development surcharge and a portion of the revenue may be invested for the tobacco control in the country. Taifur Rahman, Country Director for CTFK in Bangladesh, said that we should not think the tobacco companies as a usual trading company as they sell deaths and the state should formulate rules and regulations to regulate them. Amin-Ul-Ahsan, former Coordinator for the NTCC said that the `authorized officers’ in law implementation should be more attentive and as all the offences are noticeable; there are opportunity to lodge cases if anyone seen violation of this law. Officials of the respective departments under the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and mass media and tobacco control activists among others spoke at the occasion.
The Policy Dialogue demanded to implement the existing tobacco control law strictly, and to formulate and implement required regulations under the directives of the FCTC Article 5.3 to curb commercial activities of tobacco companies adopted aiming to increase the tobacco use in the country.
The events have been highlighted on both local and national media, and a compilation of the media coverage is attached herein for your convenience.