Tobacco companies are incentivising Dhaka city's restaurants to keep designated smoking areas in their eateries, with an ill motive of promoting tobacco products widely, find a study.
The brands offer different gifts and bargaining chips – Cash benefits, Covid protective gears, staff uniforms, cooking utensils, coffee mugs, plates, glasses, lighters, ashtrays, samples of new tobacco products, discounted purchase facility – to allure the restaurant authorities for having the smoking zones, it also figured out.
Research and advocacy organization Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE) conducted the study titled 'Explore tobacco companies' interference on the smoke-free environment at restaurants in Dhaka city of Bangladesh' and unveiled the study report at a hotel in the capital on Sunday, said a press release.
The study report said that the companies could display advertisements for tobacco products using the loopholes of the Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Act, 2005. The law prohibits smoking in one-room restaurants but restaurants having more than one room is allowed to keep a designated smoking area.
Member of Parliament Ashim Kumar, journalist Saleem Samad, Executive Director of VOICE Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, among others, were present at the event.
In the keynote presentation, Zayed Siddiki, project coordinator of VOICE, said that the surveyed restaurants were selected from a pre-list from Gulshan, Dhanmondi, Banani, Uttara and others.
All the restaurants were found with signs/logos of British American Tobacco Bangladesh displayed in a "colourful decorated box with lighting".
Around 73% of the advertisements were found displayed at the designated smoking area while 27% were seen at entrance or exit ways. Besides, the advertisements were also noticed near food service tables and in multiple places.
Tobacco companies offer one-time cash benefits to restaurant owners for displaying these advertising materials. Depending on the location of the restaurant, the amount is Tk4 lakh to TK15 lakh. To ensure that the advertisements were displayed properly, the representatives of the tobacco company visit 40% of the restaurants every 7 days, 26.60% of the restaurants every 10 days and 33.30% of the restaurants every 15 days.
On the impact, Siddiki referred to an international report titled "Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2017" and said 43.9% of non-smoker adults are being (15+) exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) at different public places. Of the victims, around half get secondhand smoke at restaurants – a serious public health threat.
To protect non-smokers especially children and women from secondhand smoke the government immediately needs to amend the existing tobacco control act and ban the provision for designated smoking areas from all types of restaurants, recommended the study conducted with the support of the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids".
It also called for 100% smoking free policies for all other public places to achieve the vision for tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.