Standard tobacco packaging needed to raise revenue, cut consumption


The introduction of standard packaging for tobacco products is needed to protect public health, protect consumer rights and increase taxes. If it is done and monitored properly, it will discourage the youths from consuming tobacco products, help smokers to quit smoking, make people aware of the harmful aspects of tobacco and make illiterate people easily aware of the harmful aspects of tobacco

Anti-tobacco activists and platforms made the observations following study and research in this regard. 

Farhana Zaman Liza, Research Assistant of Tobacco Control & Research Cell (TCRC) at Dhaka International University (DIU), told the Bangladesh Post that they carried out study and conducted research on tobacco products, implementation of pictorial health warnings on tobacco packets and other tobacco related issues for several times. After research and field work, they placed their suggestions and recommendations. 

She called for introducing standard packaging to decrease the tobacco consumption in the country and help the National Board of Revenue (NBR) in collecting taxes. She said that the packaging will be standard if it is introduced as per BSTI regulations 

Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin,  Technical Advisor of The Union, said that tobacco use threatens public health and development. About 49% of the total population of Bangladesh is youth, who are the main target of the tobacco companies. We should think about how much the tobacco companies are marketing and expanding their business. So standard packaging must be introduced to reduce tobacco use and increase revenue, he said. 

According to a 2007 report of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), in 2016, about 1 lakh 26 thousand people died prematurely due to tobacco use. According to the report of Bangladesh Cancer Society, tobacco use causes an annual expenditure of Tk 30,570 crore in Bangladesh. 

The TCRC monitored compliance on the implementation of pictorial health warnings on the wrapping of tobacco products in three steps from 2016 to 2017. They highlighted the obstacles to the implementation of illustrated health warnings due to differences in the packaging of tobacco products, especially in case of Jorda, Gul and Bidi. And the concept of standard packaging for the first time in tobacco control was created by high lighting the need for an ideal packaging as a solution. And accordingly they put forward several recommendations to the National Tobacco Control Cell.

Subsequently, in 2018-2019, TCRC collected data from 265 markets in 64 districts of Bangladesh over a two-year period. A total of 10,074 products of cigarette, Bidi, Jorda and Gul were monitored. 

After research, a comprehensive guideline on standard packaging was prepared and on October 9 in 2019, the National Tobacco Control Cell organised a discussion meeting on "Need to Introduce and Implement Standard Packaging of Tobacco Products" in the conference room of the Health Economics Unit of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The TCRC's proposal was verbally accepted on the basis of the views of the representatives of all the organizations present at the meeting chaired by the Additional Secretary (World Health) of the Ministry of Health, Md. Saidur Rahman. A number of decisions were taken at the meeting, including a decision to take initiatives to implement the proposed standard packaging. At the end of the meeting, the proposal was handed over to NTCC.

The recommendations proposed by TCRC includes, stopping the sale of Jorda and the retail sale of bidis, white leaves and open tobacco should be wrapped, standard packaging should be applicable for import of all types of tobacco products, properly pass the proposed standard packaging rule and implement it within the next 12 months, NBR-listed tobacco companies should be brought under standard packaging first, especially in the case of smokeless tobacco products and target distributors and list all illegal tobacco companies and force them to comply with the law.