Excessive use of tobacco products is one of the leading causes of heart disease, cancer, and many other preventable diseases which kill over 1.61 lakh people every year in the country
Strict tobacco control law is needed to protect public health during the Covid-19 pandemic and to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, envisioned by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Therefore, it is necessary to amend six sections of the Tobacco Control Act to strengthen it, said speakers at a discussion titled "Need for Strong Tobacco Control Law to Achieve Tobacco Free Bangladesh."
Bangladesh Health Reporters Forum organised the programme in collaboration with The National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at Fars Hotel in the capital on Wednesday.
Dr Ahmad Khairul Abrar, research coordinator of the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, delivered the keynote address at the programme.
He said about 3.78 million adults in Bangladesh use tobacco. Another 38.4 million become victims of secondhand smoke in public places including workplace and public transport. Various studies have shown that smokers are 14 times more likely to become seriously ill than those infected with Covid 19.
The speakers at the event said the tobacco control law needs to be strengthened to protect the public health from the harms of tobacco.
Mostafizur Rahman, lead policy advisor of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said various aspects of the country's existing tobacco control law are in line with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, but there are weaknesses in some areas. If these weaknesses are revised, the law will be more effective.
Speakers at the meeting demanded six important amendments to the Tobacco Control Act. These include a 100% ban on smoking in all public places and public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic, a ban on the display of tobacco products in stores, a ban on corporate social responsibilities of tobacco companies, a ban on the import, manufacture, sale and use of e-cigarettes, and an increase in the size of pictorial health warnings and banning the sale of single stick cigarette.