-Civil Society Representatives in a press conference by Unnayan Shamannay
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has attempted to reinforce the draft amendment of “Tobacco Control Act” with an aim to make the pledge “tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040”. In order to protect public health and economy, this effort has already received huge admiration. Therefore, civil society representatives urge to finalize the amendment as soon as possible in a press conference titled “Reinforcing Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act” arranged by think-tank Unnayan Shamannay on today (13 February 2023). The country’s famous economist and former Governor of Bangladesh Bank, Dr. Atiur Rahman chaired the conference while renowned civil societies attended including Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, Former Chairman, Hill Tracts Development Board; Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, Country Economist, UNDP Bangladesh; Ruma Modak, Dramatist; Shyamal Dutta, General Secretary, Bangladesh Press Club; Jounalist Munni Saha, Chief Executive Editor, ATN News; Sheikh Mohammad Aslam, National Award Winning Former Football Player; and Rehana Parveen, first female football and coach.
The attempt to reinforce the amendment process reflects the government’s respect towards ensuring public interest in a greater way. Since tobacco is responsible for taking lives of around 400 people each day in the country, they pleaded the relevant people to finalize the amendment quickly. They pointed out that abolishing Designated Smoking Area (DSA) and forbidding single stick cigarettes selling will protect people from passive smoking as well as discourage youngers to refrain from smoking.
Former footballer Sheikh Mohammad Aslam claimed that it is possible to build awareness among the young generation through reinforcing the act. Dramatist Ruma Modak emphasized on enforcement laws or acts alongside the amendment to protect low-income people and workers.
Shayamol Dutta, stressing the issue of information failure, said that tobacco companies give wrong information to the government about the decrease in revenue, because of which the government is afraid to enforce the law. Again, referring to the CSR issue of tobacco companies, journalist Munni Saha stated that these companies do various types of CSR to avoid reporting tobacco issues in the media houses, so the awareness campaign of this fund is not visible. Dr. Naznin Ahmed believes, “children should be taught about the harmful effects of tobacco”. She also added that the harmful effects of tobacco should be discussed in the textbook. Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura stressed, the creation of a roadmap to implement the commitment of making Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040. As the chairperson of the conference, Dr. Atiur Rahman said, “false propaganda is spreading by the opportunist, that if the amendment of the Tobacco Control Act is finalized, there may be a loss of jobs and impose negative impact on macro economy. If this amendment is finalized, then Bangladesh’s tobacco control law will be up to international standards and will not significantly harm small traders’ businesses and workers’ employment. Rather, the reduction in tobacco use will have a positive effect on the overall economy”.