বৃহস্পতিবার, ২০ জুন ২০২৪, ০২:৪৪ পূর্বাহ্ন

‘Urge to pass the amended Tobacco Control Act in the current Parliament’

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Update : সোমবার, ৪ সেপ্টেম্বর, ২০২৩

Staff Reporter, Dhaka : 4th September, 2023: In a passionate plea for the protection of public health and the prevention of countless deaths caused by tobacco use, Gazipur-5 Constituency Member of Parliament and Bangladesh Mohila Awami League President, Meher Afroz Chumki, has demanded the prompt introduction and passage of the amended Smoking and Tobacco Use Control Act in the current session of Parliament.

With a staggering 442 people losing their lives to tobacco-related causes every day in Bangladesh, the urgency of this legislative action cannot be overstated. Meher Afroz Chumki delivered this compelling message as the chief guest at an exchange meeting organized by Nari Maitree at Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia Hall of the National press club in the capital on Monday, September 4th.

Highlighting the dire consequences of tobacco use, Chumki revealed that approximately 38.4 million people in Bangladesh are exposed to secondhand smoke, with children and women being the most vulnerable. She reiterated the government’s commitment to making Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040 and implored the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to pass the amended Tobacco Control Act swiftly.

Meher Afroz Chumki expressed her determination to take immediate action within Parliament to ensure the swift passage of this crucial legislation. She firmly believes that its passage will mark a significant milestone in the Honorable Prime Minister’s vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh.

The discussion meeting, presided over by Nari Maitree Executive Director Shaheen Akhtar Dolly, brought together influential figures including Nachima Begum, Chief Adviser of Anti-Tobacco Parliamentary Women’s Forum and former Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, as well as Shabnam Jahan Shila, Member of Parliament and General Secretary of Women’s Awami League. Also in attendance was Hossain Ali Khondkar, Coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC).

The meeting was also attended by members of Anti-Tobacco Parliamentary Women’s Forum Shirin Naeem Poonam (former Member of Parliament), Program Manager of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) Md. Abdus Salam Miah and various media representatives and leaders of anti-tobacco organizations.

Shaheen Akhtar Dolly, the executive director of Nari Maitree, emphasized the severe health risks posed by tobacco, with 1,61,000 people succumbing to tobacco-related diseases annually. The economic burden on families due to treatment costs and the substantial revenue loss suffered by the government annually underscored the pressing need for comprehensive tobacco control laws.

Nasrin Akhtar, the coordinator of Nari Maitriee tobacco control project, outlined key provisions of the amended Tobacco Control Act, including the elimination of smoking areas, the ban on displaying tobacco products at point of sale, the prohibition of retail bidi-cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and the restriction on tobacco company corporate social responsibility initiatives. Additionally, the proposal to increase the size of warnings on cigarette packets from 50 to 90 percent is expected to bolster public health outcomes.

CTFK Programs Manager Md. Abdus Salam Mia said, ‘Tobacco is a silent killer. 442 people die every day due to tobacco. We are now at a juncture where the tobacco laws can be reformed with the efforts of all of us. If we delay even one day in amending the tobacco laws, this death march will continue. Our demand to the honorable Prime Minister is that the more we can amend this law, the more lives we can save.’

Hossain Ali Khondkar, the dedicated Coordinator and Additional Secretary of the National Tobacco Control Cell, expressed his optimism regarding the proposed amendments to the Smoking and Tobacco Products (Control) Act 2005 (Amended 2013). The draft, put forth by the Health Services Department, carries the potential to significantly decrease the number of tobacco users in our country. Moreover, it aligns with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 3, strengthening our commitment to achieving important public health objectives. He conveyed his hope that all six proposed amendments will be incorporated into the amended law.

Shabnam Jahan Shila, Convener of the Anti-Tobacco Parliamentary Women’s Forum and Member of Parliament, called for the elimination of designated smoking zones in public places, citing the constant exposure of the Bangladeshi population to secondhand smoke.

Nachima Begum, NDC, chief adviser of the Anti-Tobacco Parliamentary Women’s Forum and former chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, said research has shown that women use smokeless tobacco more than men in Bangladesh. Women are suffering from many complex diseases including mouth cancer, heart attack, stroke. Besides, because of tobacco, pregnant women are having abortions, mothers are also dying while giving birth. Therefore, we demand the speedy passage of the proposed amendment to the Tobacco Control Act to protect women’s health.

The meeting saw active participation from anti-tobacco organizations, invited guests, and media professionals, all united in their commitment to strengthening existing tobacco control laws for the betterment of public health in Bangladesh.


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