Decline in tobacco consumption fails to meet expectations

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Desk Report:

Tobacco consumption in Bangladesh has not been reduced to the expected level, even though the country is scheduled to be declared as a tobacco-free nation by 2040 as Prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced earlier.

Amanullah Khan, a dedicated anti-tobacco activist since 1987 and the president of the nation’s leading anti-tobacco campaigning platform Adhunik, founded by the iconic National Professor Dr Nurul Islam, made this remark on Saturday while he was speaking at a joint meeting of Adhunik and Coalition Against Tobacco Tracks and Terrorism (CATTT) at capital’s Cosmos Centre. The program was held keeping in view the World No-Tobacco Day, May 31.

The other participants at the meeting were Ali Neyamat, CATTT president and SASC founder Kamruzzaman Zia, Editor and Publisher of Daily Bangajanani, Amjad Hossain, CATTT’s Vice President, Mizanur Rahman, CATTT’s Organizer, Dr. Nina Islam, Social Welfare Secretary of Adhunik and MA Jabbar, Executive Secretary of Adhunik.

The speakers emphasized on collective and joint initiatives of all stakeholders concerned to stop tobacco consumption and drug in the country.

Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) found that tobacco usage among those aged 15 and above dropped by 18.5 percent in the last eight years, till 2017. In 2009, over 43 percent of the country’s population aged 15 and above used various smoking and smokeless tobacco products, like cigarette and Jorda. But it came down to 35.3 percent by 2017. Even if these statistics are accepted on their face value, the so-called progress was not enough to make Bangladesh free of the tobacco scourge by 2040 as envisaged.

Adhunik president expressed the view that the findings on Bangladesh tobacco scene do not appear to reflect the ground realities here which expose Bangladesh to greater risks and vulnerabilities so far as tobacco is concerned.

The widespread prevalence of tobacco use among the student community including children  and the youth, the sights of smoking crowds in bus stands, ferry ‘ghats’, railway stations and other public places, cigarette butts strewn around the streets and paths of the cities, towns and villages across the country, the alarming rise of smoking habit among women folks putting in danger the children’s health at home and the land under intensive cultivation of tobacco, etc. all suggest to the contrary and belies some of the claims by the researchers. The anti-tobacco campaigner called for a review of the tobacco situation in Bangladesh over the years to straighten up the records.

Khan lamented that, Tobacco consumption could have been prevented or drastically reduced if government declared tobacco as an addictive drug in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration in 1988. “It is, however, never too late for the government to declare tobacco as a contraband product,” he observed.

The anti-tobacco campaigner was dismayed that multinational tobacco giants are expanding their business empires in the country. Recently Japan Tobacco Inc. acquired Akij group’s tobacco business for $1.47 billion dollar. The Japanese company is among top 5 largest tobacco companies in the world while Akij tobacco is the second largest cigarette maker in Bangladesh. BATT (British American Tobacco Company) is also having a field day in Bangladesh.

CATTT President Ali Neyamat pointed out that different ministries including health, education, religious affairs, and home affairs have redoubled their efforts to stop tobacco consumption and drugs.

It was informed in the meeting that Adhunik, SASC, Dhaka University Alumni News, Daily Bangajanani and USTC would jointly observe World No-Tobacco Day 2019 in a befitting manner to raise public awareness about the year’s theme: “Tobacco and lung health”.unb

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