Smokeless Tobacco Products
The use of smokeless tobacco products is widespread in Bangladesh and Indian Subcontinent. Zarda (tobacco flakes mixed with species) and Shada Pata (air cured tobacco leaves) are widely used with betel leaf. Incorporated with social status and rituals, SLT products i.e.: Zarda, Shada Pata, Gul etc. have been used in Bangladesh and the sub-continent traditionally for generations.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017 report, currently 20.6 percent of adults (15 y/o and above) use SLTs. 18.7% of adults (20 million) use Zarda, of which 14.3% are male and 23?male, and 3.6% of adults (3.9 million) use Gul, of which 3.1% are male and 4.1% women.
In a sharp contrast with smoked tobacco, women constitute the majority of SLT consumers. The prevalence of SLT use among the women is 24.8 percent and among men the number is 16.2 percent while in smoked tobacco, the percentage of female users is only 0.8 percent. As per GATS 2017 data, tobacco cessation among female SLT users appear to be particularly challenging. Between 2009 and 2017, consumption of smokeless tobacco got reduced by 39% among the men, but among women, it decreased by only 11%.
In addition, a study titled Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2013 presents another worrisome picture. In the study, conducted among 3245 high school students of 9thGrade from 50 schools across the country, it was found that 4.5% students use smokeless tobacco. Among them 5.9% were male adolescents and 2.0% were female adolescents.[i]
Widely Used Varities of SLT Products [ii]
The term ‘smokeless tobacco” implies the use of unburned tobacco in the finished product that can be consumed orally or nasally. There is a great variety of such tobacco products in Bangladesh.
Flavoured chewing tobacco flakes mixed with aromatic spices, menthol, herbs, fragrances, saffron, raw kiwam, silver flakes and sandalwood oil. Zarda is used in betel quid, chewed alone or mixed with lime or areca nut.
SADA PATA/LOOSE LEAF
This is air cured loose tobacco leaf used for chewing as well as for smoking. Sada pata is either chewed or used as an ingredient in betel quid.
Powdered tobacco product with ash of tendu leaves, marketed in small tin cans or sachets. Usually applied on teeth and gums.
SLT Industry and Challenges
Smokeless tobacco industry in Bangladesh is the one of the most fragmented industrial sector in Bangladesh with little to no central monitoring or oversight. Most of the SLT factories are small-scale and unorganized; most companies do not have registration. Many SLT factories, intentionally or unintentionally, follow certain patterns, making it extremely difficult to ensure compliance and collect due revenue. These include setting up factories in the house, not registering companies and factories, selling produced products in different parts of the country than the region of production, transferring the factory to evade taxes, lack of proper name and address of the tobacco company, having multiple products in the same name, having multiple companies of the same owner, wrong addresses, counterfeit VAT registration, counterfeit trademarks and use of counterfeit BSTI logos.[iii]
As a result of such tactics, revenue generation from SLT sector has been quite challenging. While 20.6 percent of adults use SLTs, revenues collected from SLT sector constitute less than 1 percent of total revenue generated from tobacco sector. Around 486.5 million BDT of revenue was received from smokeless tobacco products during the 2017-2018 fiscal years. Of that amount, revenue coming from Zarda was 470.1 million BDT and the revenue from Gul was 16.4 million BDT.
According to a study conducted by the Tobacco Control and Research Cell (TCRC) of Dhaka International University between March 2016 to July 2019, there are currently 347 Zarda manufacturing companies and 40 Gul manufacturing companies producing a total variety of 788 brands of SLT products. Hakimpuri Zarda and Eagle gul are the most popular brands of SLT products.
According to a study conducted by PROGGA, there is a lack of standardization across SLT products, particularly in the size and shape of packs/containers. For instance, gul containers are 2–3-inch long thin spherical containers, making placement of the GHW and text difficult.
However, although the tobacco control law of Bangladesh, Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Act 2005 (Amendment 2013) incorporates SLTs within its ambit, the Rules of the Law do not address such unique challenges SLTs pose.