Asian Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd signed an agreement with Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) on December 23 to establish a modern cigarette and tobacco processing plant in Ishwardi Export Processing Zone with an investment of $2(two) million.
Various anti-tobacco and human rights organisations including the Voices for Interactive Choice & Empowerment (VOICE) protested the move of establishment of such a new tobacco processing plant and said such permission to set up yet another tobacco factory in Bangladesh goes directly against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision to make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation by 2040 and
her commitment to achieving SDGs by 2030.
Apart from contradicting the premier's vision, this investment of $2 million will also be a blow to Bangladeshi citizens' public health. If converted, the investment fund of Asian Tobacco (Pvt) Ltd stands at around Tk 17 crores, whereas the government spends Tk 30,560 crores for the patients who come with various tobacco-related diseases every year.
And, the company's target to manufacture 119.5 crores cigar and cigarette sticks, filter sticks, and packagings and to produce 73,205 Kg tobacco will undoubtedly raise the death and sickness number due to tobacco-related diseases.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE said, “Permitting a tobacco company to establish a new factory in the country directly contradicts with Prime Minister's vision and what she said back in 2016 in the South Asian Speaker's Summit on achieving the sustainable development goals. If things continue this way, becoming a tobacco free country by 2040 will remain as a dream.”
Bangladesh is a growing economy, and it has become a role model for many developing nations. However, if we continue to
permit the ‘death dealers’ to produce more in the name of investment, they will certainly pull down the growth by causing public health damages.