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‘Withdraw govt share from tobacco companies’

Speakers raise demand at Nat’l No Tobacco Day progms

Published : 09 Oct 2021 09:31 PM | Updated : 10 Oct 2021 03:23 PM

Speakers at a seminar called upon the government to withdraw its share from the tobacco sector as well as the British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), saying that the investment is a contradiction to the Constitution.

Speaking at the seminar, Muzaffar Hossain Paltu, advisory council member of Awami League and president of National Anti-Tuberculosis Association of Bangladesh (NATAB), said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is cordial to controlling use of tobacco. There are only 19 years left to implement her declaration to build a ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh’. So, withdrawal of the government’s share from the BATB and removal of government officials from the company’s board of directors must be ensured. 

Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) arranged the seminar titled ‘Let’s Quit Tobacco to Save Lives, Resist the Influence of Tobacco Companies’ at the National Press Club in the capital on Saturday (October 9).  

The seminar was arranged marking the ‘National No Tobacco Day-2021’. The BATA and other anti-tobacco platforms have been observing the day on October 9 since 2011 in a bid to create public awareness against the consumption of tobacco and to achieve the goal of making ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh’ by 2040. 

Saifuddin Ahmed, coordinator of the anti-tobacco alliance, presided over the seminar, while Prof Dr Pran Gopal Dutta, MP from Cumilla-7 and former VC of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Save the Environment Movement,  Dr Rumana Haque, a professor of Economics at Dhaka University, Helal Ahmed, general secretary of ‘Pratashya’ Madhok Birodhi Sangathan, and Aminul Islam Bakul, advisor of the Development Activities of Society (DAS), addressed it, among others. 

Hamidul Islam Hillol, project manager of Bureau of Economic Research (BER) of Dhaka University, moderated the event, while Mithun Vaidya, project officer of Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, presented the keynote paper. 

Earlier in the morning, to mark the day, ‘Pratashya’, WBB Trust, Tobacco Control and Research Cell (TCRC) of Dhaka International University, BATA and Aid Foundation jointly formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club. 

Farhana Zaman Liza of TCRC, Adut Rahman Emon, Project Officer of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, ANM Masum Billah Bhuiyan of IWB, Feroz Ahmed of NATAB spoke on the occasion, among others. 

The speakers at the seminar and the human chain said that it is not possible to achieve the goal of ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh’ if the aggression of tobacco companies is not resisted. Alongside making anti-tobacco awareness, effective policies should also be adopted to strengthen the existing tobacco control laws, enforce them properly and counter the tactics of tobacco companies. 

In his keynote at the seminar, Mithun Vaidya pointed out the need to modernize the tobacco tax system and prevent tobacco companies’ tactics. He recommended formulation of guidelines and code of conduct for controlling tobacco companies. He mentioned Article 5.3 of the FCTC in this regard. 

Dr Pran Gopal Dutta, MP, said that the tobacco companies attract people to use tobacco products through advertisement. E-cigarettes are gaining popularity among the youth that needs to be controlled now. He emphasised on the anti-tobacco campaign. 

Abu Naser Khan said that the tobacco control law needs to be strengthened and applied properly in order to implement the Prime Minister’s declaration.

Saifuddin Ahmed said, “We have many successes in our long journey, such as controlling the company’s aggressive advertisement through tobacco control law, introducing pictorial health warning, imposing surcharges on tobacco products, and political commitment. Now the government will have to take steps to withdraw its share and representation from tobacco companies.” 

Professor Rumana Haque said, “Increasing tax is one of the many ways to control tobacco. A policy is needed in this regard. It is also important to control the company’s aggression through implementation of the law. In this case, the media should play a vital role in disseminating accurate information,” she added. 

Helal Ahmed called upon the authorities concerned to observe the ‘National No Tobacco Day’ officially. 

Aminul Islam Bakul said that the scope of the officials in charge of implementing the tobacco control law should be increased in order to speed up the anti-tobacco movement. 

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