National, Front Page

Tobacco banned near edn instts

Stringent implementation of guidelines demanded

Published : 12 Nov 2021 09:59 PM

The government has banned the sale of all types of tobacco products within 100 meters of the educational institutions in Bangladesh. 

Licensing system has also been introduced for the sale of tobacco products and the license must be renewed every year through payment of fees as fixed by the local government bodies. 

The Local Government, Rural Development (LGRD) and Co-operatives Ministry has taken the initiative in the interests of public health and also with the aim to restrain the premature students from smoking, which ultimately leads many of them to drug addiction.

The Local Government Division of the ministry has formulated a guideline in this regard. A circular has already been published, said Mohammad Sayeed-Ur-Rahman, Deputy Secretary of the Local Government Division. 

According to the guideline, tobacco products shops and sale outlets for cigarettes within 100 meters of educational institutions is banned. As per the guideline, steps have also been taken to control the sale of tobacco products in all the places by bringing the tobacco traders under licensing system. 

While talking to Bangladesh Post on Friday Mohammad Sayeed-Ur-Rahman said, “The guideline has been formulated by our ministry to involve the local government bodies in tobacco control activities.”  

Although the guideline title ‘Guideline for Implementation of Tobacco Control Program of Local Government Institutes’ was finalised some months ago, the authorities concerned have not yet moved towards its implementation. 

The government is now trying to implement the guideline. With the power conferred under this guideline, the local government bodies, including Union Parishad, municipalities and city corporations, will be able to enforce the ban on tobacco products sale in the shops near the educational institutions. 

As per the Article 8.1 of ‘Guideline for Implementation of Tobacco Control Program of Local Government Institutes’, separate licenses must be issued for the sale of tobacco products or for the sale and purchase of tobacco products and renewal of such licenses by application subject to payment of a fixed fee every year.

The Article 8.5 of the guideline says, not to issue any license for sale of tobacco products within 100 meters of any educational institutions and health care providers. However, local government institutions can increase the coverage if they want to .

Meanwhile, the tobacco companies are resorting to various tactics to obstruct the guideline. A delegation of the companies is scheduled to hold a meeting with the LGRD Ministry over the issue tomorrow (November 14). 

Anti-tobacco platforms expressed concern over the activities and strategies of the tobacco companies. They are concerned about the news of such a meeting of tobacco companies about the tobacco control guideline.

Muzaffar Hossain Paltu, President of National Anti-Tuberculosis Association of Bangladesh (NATAB) and also a member of Awami League’s advisory council, wrote a letter to the secretary of the LGRD Ministry to convey gratitude for formulating the guideline and to express concern over the scheduled meeting.  

In the letter, he called upon the ministry to refrain from organising such meeting. He also called upon them to be vigilant so that no one can get chance to thwart the implementation of the tobacco control guideline of the LGRD Ministry, which was formulated as part of the noble aim to implement Prime Minister’s declaration of ‘tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.’  

The tobacco companies are competing to encourage young people to use tobacco products, especially cigarettes. They are unhappy over the formulation of such guideline. So, the cigarette companies are now trying to stop the initiative. 

Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, secretary at Center for Law and Policy Affairs (CLPA), said that the tobacco companies have become desperate to frustrate the initiative of the government, because their main target is children, teenagers and youths. If they are addicted to cigarettes, the tobacco companies get long-term consumers. For this reason, the tobacco companies take special measures to sell cigarettes around the educational institutions. 

Hailing the initiative, he said that if the tobacco control guideline is implemented, the illegal efforts of the cigarette companies to attract youths to smoking would be thwarted. With the implementation of the licensing system, the sale of tobacco products in an area will be much more limited than at present. Saifuddin Ahmed, the coordinator of Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), echoed the same as the CLPA secretary, saying that ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040’ announced by the Prime Minister is one of the tools of the tobacco control movement in Bangladesh. “We should collectively play a vital role in this regard. The LGRD Ministry should take stern action to stop the tactics of tobacco companies,” he added. 

Alongside the sale of cigarettes, tobacco advertisements are displayed in shops to attract students to smoking. Many talented students drop prematurely due to such tactics. Against this backdrop, the guideline is a time befitting one.   

Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, an anti-tobacco activist, said that the conspiracy of the tobacco companies must be stopped. The ban on the sale of cigarettes near educational institutions must be implemented. He also said that the use of e-cigarette among youths in Bangladesh is increasing day by day due to the tactics, marketing and promotional activities of the tobacco companies. The authorities concerned should also think about the issue. 

Talking to Bangladesh Post, Iqbal Masud, Director at Dhaka Ahsania Mission, said that the local government bodies could play a vital role in controlling the use of tobacco. The guideline will empower them in controlling tobacco use. “It is learnt that the tobacco companies are creating pressure so that the guideline is not implemented.  We hope, the government will take the initiative to implement the guideline overcoming all the pressure.