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Academics and health experts at a meeting in Rajshahi on Tuesday said that the role of ward councilors of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) is very important towards building the city free from tobacco uses, reports BSS.

They identically said the issue of making the city free from tobacco uses is the precondition to found it as healthy one. So, the public representatives should come forward and work together to attain the cherished goal.

Association for Community Development (ACD), a rights-based non government entity, organized the meeting at its conference hall in association with Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids (CTFK) and Bloomberg Philanthropies. ‘Tobacco Free Rajshahi City” was the main theme of the meeting.

Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan from Department of Geology and Mining in Rajshahi University addressed the meeting as chief guest while Dr Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, Grant Manager (Bangladesh) of CTFK) spoke as focal person with ACD Executive Director Salima Sarwar in the chair.

During their keynote presentations, ACD Project Coordinator Ehsanul Amin and its Advocacy Office Shariful Islam Shamim told the meeting that around 57,000 people die and nearly 12 lakh people become disabled every year in the country due to tobacco-related diseases.

They expressed concern that tobacco companies are expanding their market promotional activities in the name of corporate social responsibilities, which must be resisted.

Prof Sarwar Chowdhury called for a proper enforcement of the amended tobacco control law to free the public health from various non-contagious diseases caused by tobacco uses.

He viewed gross violation of the prevailing Tobacco Control Act continues in restricted areas including public places threatening public health almost everywhere.

Frequent and indiscriminate smoking in public places affects the non- smokers more than that of the direct smokers. He urged the attending RCC Ward Councilors to supplement the process of proper enforcement of the tobacco control law.

Dr Mahfuz Bhuiyan said forging a social movement has become an urgent need for ensuring hundred percent smoke-free public places. He mentioned that the government has amended the law to make it more stringent because of growing tobacco use in the country. The law also bans the selling of cigarettes to those below 18.

Coordination among the key stakeholders, awareness building and capacity development, law enforcement particularly mobile court operation could be vital strategies for effective enforcement of the law, he added.