Adhunik advocates radical revolutionary steps to eradicate the tobacco menace by 2040
Bangladesh is most likely to miss by a wide margin the target of achieving a tobacco free country by 2040 as declared (in 2016) by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The latest available figures (until 2017) and the current trends suggest that the tobacco consumption in the country has not fallen to the desired benchmark level to attain this ambitious goal.
Amanullah Khan, the president of the nation's leading and 3 times WHO award winning anti-tobacco campaigning platform Adhunik, founded by the iconic National Professor Dr Nurul Islam, made this remark on Saturday while he was speaking as chief guest 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.
Among others who were present 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.
Adhunik president in his deliberations attributed this stark failure to several main causes viz. (a) lack of strict enforcement of anti-tobacco law and measures, (b) the low level of awareness among the public about the deadly health hazards and the environmental degradation resulting from the cultivation of tobacco and its use, (c) government's continuing over-dependence on tobacco and tobacco products as a major source of its revenue turning a blind eye to the national health bill being incurred in treating tobacco related diseases and other associated costs that far outweigh the revenue generated by tobacco and most importantly (d) the inability and inertia of the government to move away from a regime of sluggish control to a total ban on tobacco in planned phases. In this connection the anti-tobacco activist was of the opinion that just refining of the law here and there without a substantial shake-up would not go a long way in advancing towards the 2040 vision visualized by our Prime Minister. Nor the marginal increases in tax rates on and price adjustments of tobacco and tobacco products though helpful in the short run are of little value in the long run and in many instances are no more than symbolic.
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.
Adhunik president also expressed the view that the findings on Bangladesh tobacco scenario do not appear to reflect adequately the ground realities which expose the country 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 in addition to their own at home and the acreage of land under intensive and extensive cultivation of tobacco, etc. all suggest to the contrary and belied some of the claims made by the researchers. The anti-tobacco campaigner called for a more thorough and meticulous survey and a further review of the tobacco reports in Bangladesh over the years in order to straighten up the records.
Khan lamented, "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.
Adhunik president was dismayed that taking advantage of the loopholes in Bangladesh law, multinational tobacco giants are expanding their business empires in the country. Recently Japan Tobacco Inc. took over Akij group's tobacco business for $1.47 billion. The Japanese company ranks among the top 5 largest tobacco companies in the world while Akij tobacco has established itself as the second largest cigarette maker in Bangladesh. BAT (British American Tobacco Company) is also enjoying a field day in Bangladesh as the company's revenue soared up with record profit earnings.
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.
At the meeting there was a call for collaborative and joint initiatives of all stakeholders concerned to prevent tobacco and drug consumption in the country.
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".
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