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‘Tobacco cos entice youths to smoke’

Published : 19 May 2022 10:15 PM

Anti-tobacco activists, researchers on tobacco control and leaders of different anti-tobacco organisations at a views-exchange meeting have blamed the tobacco companies for enticing youths in Bangladesh to smoking defying the tobacco control law.

Expressing concern over the tobacco companies’ various tactics in promoting their products to youths, the anti-tobacco activists said that 49% of the total population of Bangladesh is young. If it is possible to attract a youth to this addiction, a long-term consumer is created for the tobacco companies. So, the tobacco companies targeted the young generation.

They mentioned the Global Youth Tobacco Survey-2013 and said that five per cent of the people, aged between 13 and 15, in Bangladesh consume tobacco products. The number is increasing. Against this 

backdrop, the tobacco control laws must be implemented properly, while an action plan should be adopted to overcome the problem, said speakers at the views-exchange meeting. 

Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust and the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) jointly organised the views-exchange titled ‘Necessity of Implementing Tobacco Control Laws to Save Youths’ at the National Press Club in the capital on Wednesday. 

Gaous Pearee, Director at WBB Trust, chaired the event, while Samiul Hasan Shajib, Project Officer at WBB Trust, presented the keynote address.

Moderated by Syeda Anonna Rahman, Head of Program- TC and NCD at WBB Trust, it was addressed, among others, by Mozaffar Hossain Paltu, Advisor of BATA and President of Bangladesh National Tuberculosis Prevention Association (NATAB), Hossain Ali Khandaker, coordinator (additional secretary) of National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC), Shafiqul Islam, Head of Program at Vital Strategies Bangladesh), Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, Technical Adviser at The Union, Helal Ahmed, General Secretary of Prottyasha Anti-Drug Organisation; and Acting Coordinator of BATA, and Dr Shihab Uddin, Assistant Health Officer at Dhaka North City Corporation (DSCC).

Shagufta Sultana, Project Director of Aid Foundation, Seema Das Shimu, Director of Ubinig, Hamidul Islam Hillol, Program Manager at Bureau of Economics

Research (BER) of DU, Farhana Zaman Liza, Project Manager at TCRC, AKM Khalil Ullah, Project Coordinator at NATAB, and SM Shafiul Azam, Chairman of IDF, were also present, among others. 

In his presentation, Samiul Hasan Shajib pointed out various sides to address the challenges of implementing the tobacco control law.

The speakers said that the government’s promise to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040 is under threat due to various tactics and promotional activities for products in various ways. The tobacco companies’ illegal activities must be stopped, they demanded. 

In his speech, Mozaffar Hossain Paltu said that the existing shares of the government should be withdrawn from tobacco companies in order to achieve effective success in tobacco control in Bangladesh. “We need to increase campaigns to make people aware of the harmful effects of tobacco and engage the common people in anti-tobacco activities,” he added.  

Hossain Ali Khandaker said the draft guidelines have been finalized in the light of the tobacco control law and FCTC-5.3. The National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) is being finalized as well as policies are being formulated to provide financial assistance to organisations working at the local level.

Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin said that various studies have shown that British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) is setting up smoking zones in various restaurants in posh areas of Dhaka city to attract youths to tobacco. He strongly demanded that the companies be held directly accountable.