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Dhaka Tribune

Anti-tobacco activists welcome tougher act

Update : 30 Apr 2013, 02:11 PM

Anti-tobacco activists have welcomed the recent amendment to the Tobacco Control Act, saying it will help reduce the number of people who pick up the smoking habit.

The campaigners insist that not only does the new law have to be strictly implemented, but also that tobacco taxes need to be raised.

Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2004. In 2005, an act was formed putting bans on public smoking and on the advertisement of tobacco products.

However, activists say the use of tobacco in the country is still on the rise, because the tobacco industry has been able to exploit of the legal loopholes that exist in the act.

Now with the amendments of the 2005 act that got parliamentary approval on Monday, the anti-tobacco activists say they have won a long-fought battle, admitting that it may become a futile effort without proper implementation.

“[The act] has raised the fine for public smoking from Tk50 to Tk300,” said Iqbal Masud, assistant director of the tobacco control cell of Dhaka Ahsania Mission. He also said the amendment of the 2005 act has many tougher provisions than its predecessor.

Masud said the act also has provisions for three months of imprisonment and a fine of Tk100,000 for airing any advertisement for tobacco products, as opposed to the 2005 act that fined Tk1,000 for the same crime.

He also welcomed the incorporation of the mandatory packaging of cigarette with pictorial warnings covering 50% of the surface of the packet. “Research shows that pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets caused 25% of smokers to consider quitting.”

“But we need to understand that the tobacco industry is very strong. It will come up with new ways to find loopholes even in the amended act. Also without implementation and tough monitoring, the act will be effective only on paper,” he said.

Taifur Rahman, coordinator of the US based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids welcomed the amended act. He said that since the amendment was drafted, the country’s anti-tobacco activists have been eagerly waiting to see it passed. The cabinet approved the amendment in August last year.

Rahman said tobacco promotion mostly targets young people. “So if the amended act—which bans any sort of promotion even at the points of sale—is implemented, the emergence of new smokers will be prevented.”

“Parliament’s budget session is not far away. We should be vocal about [our demand for] taxes to be raised on tobacco products,” said Ruhul Amin Rushd, convener of the Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance.  

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