Minister assures amendment to tobacco control law

Minister for health Zahid Maleque has given his assurance to amend the tobacco control law aiming at reducing tobacco use in the country.

He gave the assurance when delegates from research and advocacy organisation PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) and the Anti Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) met him at his office on Monday.

With the existing loopholes in the current tobacco control law, achieving a tobacco free Bangladesh within 2040 as declared by the Prime Minister will be hampered. 

The health minister said they are working “tediously to fulfill the declaration of the Prime Minister to build a tobacco free Bangladesh by 2040.”

“In order to achieve the Prime Minister’s commitment, stringent regulations will be imposed gradually to reduce tobacco use,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.

Earlier, there was no use of graphic health warnings on packages of tobacco products; but it has already been introduced through an amendment. Moreover, previously people used to smoke in public places as well as in passenger planes.

It has also been incorporated under regulations through laws. The current law is being amended to make it more updated and time- fitting.”

He assured that the proposals placed by PROGGA and ATMA will be taken into account seriously during the process of amendment.

During the meeting, PROGGA and ATMA placed in front of the Health Minister some proposals for amendment in tobacco control law which included 1. Remove the provision of “designated smoking zone” and ban smoking in all public places, work spaces, and public transports to ensure an absolute tobacco free environment; 2. 

Ban the display of tobacco products at points of sale; 3. Ban ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities of tobacco companies; 4. Ban the sale of single sticks and unpackaged smokeless tobacco; 5. Ban the sale and import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products; 6. Allow for stricter rules on packaging including increases to the size of graphic health warnings; etc. and was requested to incorporate these in the law amendment.

In 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her pledge to amend the tobacco control law in the light of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) with the vision of a tobacco free Bangladesh.

Journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Convener of ATMA Mortuza Haidar Liton, Co-convener of ATMA Mizan Chowdhury, Business In-Charge of Bangla Tribune Md. Shafiqul Islam and Head of Tobacco Control Program from PROGGA Md. Hasan Shahriar were present at the meeting with the minister.