Continued interference of tobacco companies a major obstacle to tobacco-free Bangladesh


The continued interference of tobacco companies is acting as a major obstacle to achieving a tobacco-free Bangladesh.

Progga (Knowledge for Progress) and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (Atma) organised a webinar on 'Tobacco Company Intervention Indicators: FCTC Article 5.3 Implementation Report, Bangladesh 2023'.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, special envoy to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina For Climate Change, spoke as the chief guest of the programme.

He said "There are instructions from the honorable Prime Minister to strengthen the law. Still, why is it taking so long to amend the law? We are claiming huge achievements in our health sector. Then, why can't we take effective measures after dying so many people due to tobacco? Public health should be prioritized."

Prominent economist Dr Kazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Forum, presided over the webinar and said, "Government's shares must be withdrawn from tobacco companies. Tobacco companies should not be rewarded and CSR activities should be stopped completely. We have been saying this for years, but it is not working. Maybe someday our policy makers and those in government offices will listen to us.”

Coordinator and Additional Secretary of the National Tobacco Control Cell, Hossain Ali Khandaker said, “We have made a lot of progress in the law amendment process. But the tobacco companies are trying to stop it again and again.”

“So, we have to remain vigilant about it," he added.

Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) Head of Global Research and Advocacy Dr. Mary Assunta said, “It is clear that multinational tobacco companies want Asia and Bangladesh as an important market to increase their profits. So they will challenge and oppose any government action that threatens profits. But the government is obligated to protect public health, not an industry that sells death. Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC is a powerful tool that governments can use to save lives and build a healthy Bangladesh.”

The study found that no progress has been made in Bangladesh in addressing tobacco company interference and implementing Article 5.3 guidelines.

Research recommendations include revising the law from non-interference by tobacco companies, creating awareness on compliance with WHO FCTC Article 5.3, finalizing a code of conduct in the light of Article 5.3 in dealing with or negotiating with tobacco companies, banning foreign investment in the tobacco sector, and the Essential Commodities Control Act of 1956. The amendment called for the delisting of cigarettes, divestment of government stakes in tobacco companies, and the formulation and implementation of a simpler tobacco tax and pricing policy.

This year, the research was conducted in 90 countries of the world. The study assesses how governments perceive tobacco company interference and what measures they take to counter interference in the light of FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines.

Progga (Knowledge for Progress) has been publishing the 'Tobacco Company Intervention Index, Bangladesh' since 2018.

According to the study, Bangladesh scored 72 on the 'Tobacco Company Intervention Index, 2023', the worst in South Asia. The most interference revolved around the amendment of the ongoing Tobacco Control Act. The government could not pass the draft amendment even after three years, it said.

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) provided overall support for this research project with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

News Source: UNB

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