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‘Many tobacco companies yet to follow health warning rules’


Published : 09 Jan 2022 09:51 PM

A study finds that tobacco companies are still flouting the law even six years after rules of printing the graphic health warning on tobacco packets were made mandatory.

The researchers involved in the study said that in the last six years, the tobacco companies have not properly issued graphic health warning on the tobacco products, which is a complete violation of the tobacco control law. As a result, the purpose of the law is being severely hampered.

The result of the study was unveiled at a function titled ‘Implementation of Graphic Health Warning on Tobacco Packets as per the Law and Present Situation’. Tobacco Control and Research Cell (TCRC) of Dhaka International University, and Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) jointly organised the event at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Sunday (January 9).

Speakers of the event said that tobacco is one of the major obstacles to the development of the country’s health system. The tobacco companies are destroying the health system in the name of paying revenue.

Helal Ahmed of BATA presided over the function, while it was addressed, among others, by Nasir Uddin Sheikh, Country Manager (Bangladesh) of Vital Strategies; Ataur Rahman Masud, Senior Policy Advisor (Bangladesh) of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids; Shagufta Sultana, Project Director of Aid Foundation; Mohammad Shamimul Islam, Deputy Director of Bangladesh Center for Communication Program (BCCP); and Syeda Anonna Rahman, Program Manager of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust.

Farhana Zaman Liza, Assistant Researcher and Program Manager of TCRC, presented the keynote paper, while Md Bazlur Rahman, Member Secretary of TCRC and Project Director, moderated the event.

In the keynote, Farhana Zaman Liza said that one of the methods of tobacco control is to provide graphic health warnings on the packets of tobacco products. Section 10 of ‘The Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act, 2005 (Amendment 2013)’ stipulates that all tobacco products must provide pictorial warnings relating to the health hazards of tobacco covering 50 per cent of the surface area of the main exhibition floor on both sides of the packets.

According to her, the TCRC carried out the six-month study in 2021. In that time, team members of the study collected data from 1288 tobacco products packages in 24 districts in six divisions of the country to find out the current status of the implementation of graphic health warnings on tobacco packets. The TCRC study found 82% of tobacco products contain pictorial health warnings; while brand element was found in 25% wrapper; 21% of twists did not show fixed-term images; graphic health warnings were not printed in 50% of the 44% wrappers; this warning is not printed on both sides of the 63% package; 73% of bidi wrappers were found to be covered with graphic health warning bandroll; 50% of the packaging did not have the message ‘for sale in Bangladesh only’; no pictorial health warnings were found on any of the cigarette cartons.

In his presidential speech, Helal Ahmed said that although the rules for graphic health warning were passed in 2016, it is not yet fully effective due to obstacles by tobacco companies. The tobacco companies have to be brought under the law.

Ataur Rahman Masud said that the picture that emerges from the study is awful. Nasir Uddin Sheikh said that tobacco companies are licensed killers. They are carrying out their activities in various ways violating the law.

Syeda Anonna Rahman said that the tobacco companies are carrying out various activities and campaigns as part of CSR. These must be resisted.

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