April 21, 2024, 9:39 pm

Tobacco Control Law amendment needs to protect public health

  • Update Time : Thursday, October 22, 2020
  • 230 Time View
The view of discussion meeting

Tobacco use posing risk of COVID-19

Staff Correspondent:

Speakers at a discussion meeting yesterday stressed the need for amendment of tobacco control law with a view to protect the public health and reduce the risk of COVID-19.

They said, controlling of tobacco use is one of the main ways to prevent the growing risk of non-communicable diseases in Bangladesh. Therefore, existing tobacco control law must be amended to strengthen the tobacco control measures.

The speakers came up with the remarks, while addressing a discussion meeting with the media persons titled ‘Role of Media in Protecting Public Health: Tobacco Control Context’ held at a hotel in the capital on Thursday.

National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh in collaboration with the Campaign for Tobabo Free Kids organized the program.

Professor Sohel Reza Choudhury, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Research at the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, highlighted the harmful effects of tobacco on public health and the economy.

He said, “Non-communicable diseases especially cardiovascular disease and cancer are now responsible for 67 percent of the total deaths in the country. Around 22 percent of the deaths are premature, while use of tobacco is one of the main reasons behind the non-communicable diseases.”

He further said, “More than 126,000 people die from tobacco-related diseases in Bangladesh every year. Besides, the expenditure against treatment of the diseases and productivity loss stranded more than Tk 30,000 crore. It is possible to prevent the death rate and economic loss through controlling the use of tobacco.

The meeting highlighted the need to amend the existing tobacco control law and demanded the amendment as soon as possible. Former coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell and former Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Md. Ruhul Quddus said, the existing Smoking and Using of Tobacco Products (Control) Act, in some cases, exempted the ban on smoking in public transport and restaurants. As a result, at this time of the covid-19 epidemic, it is putting the public at risk.

He added that although the existing tobacco control law is largely consistent with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — FCTC, there are weaknesses in some areas. The current law does not prohibit the display of tobacco products in shops. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the packet is being used as an advertisement. On the other hand, open sale of single sticks or retail sticks of bidi-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products is not prohibited. As a result, children and adolescents can afford these harmful products. Moreover, as the existing law does not prohibit the CSR of tobacco companies, the companies are promoting themselves.

Ruhul Quddus said the law does not ban emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, a new threat to public health, especially teenagers and young adults. Again, although pictorial warnings were made mandatory on 50% of all tobacco products, the size of the packaging was not specified. As a result, illustrated warnings on small packets of bidis and smokeless tobacco products do not draw attention. Considering these aspects, tobacco control should be strengthened by amending the tobacco control law.

The media personnel present at the meeting expressed their views in favour of amending the law.

They said, the law needs to be amended as soon as possible to protect public health. For this, the journalists seem to play a supportive role.

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