The only effective way to eradicate tobacco use from the country by 2040, as is visioned by the government, is amending the existing laws in this regard, health and anti-tobacco advocates said yesterday (Tuesday).
About 35% of people in Bangladesh use tobacco at present, they said citing studies.
The activists called for a complete ban on smoking in public places, tobacco product displays, corporate social responsibility activities of tobacco companies, single stick sales, etc.
The calls came from Shastho Shurokkha Foundation and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) members during a seminar on "Strengthening Tobacco Control Law for Achieving Tobacco-Free Bangladesh by 2040 and Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)" organised by the Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing in the capital.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nizam Uddin Ahmed, executive director, Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, said, "Bangladesh suffered an economic loss of Tk30,560 crore due to tobacco-related deaths and illnesses in 2018 while the government received around Tk22,000 crore from tobacco companies in VAT and tax."
He urged the government to take necessary steps to amend the existing tobacco control laws as have been done in different countries of the world.
Meanwhile, attending the event as its chief guest, Information and Broadcasting Minister Hassan Mahmud said the government aims to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.
But, he said, that goal will not be achieved without proper campaigning and law enforcement.
He urged the privately-owned media to come forward in this regard.
Also speaking at the seminar as a special guest, former health minister Dr AFM Ruhal Haque said, "Many people think e-cigarettes are less harmful. But that is wrong. E-cigarettes also harm equally."
He called for banning e-cigarettes and controlling tobacco use for the sake of protecting public health.
Tobacco-related diseases killed 1.26 lakh people in 2018, speakers on the occasion said citing studies.
They added that about 50% and 44% of people are exposed to passive smoking in restaurants and public transport respectively.
Habibe Millat, a member of parliament (MP), presided over the programme.
MP Meher Afroz Chumki, Director and Additional Secretary of National Tobacco Control Cell Kazi Jebunnesa Begum were also present on the occasion among others.