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'Putting taxes on tobacco, e-cigarettes remain top priority'

  • Published at 04:48 pm May 31st, 2021
Representational photo

Neighboring countries have pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packets from 80% to 90%, but in Bangladesh it is only 50%

Four members of the parliament (MPs) recently stressed at a webinar that imposing higher and specific taxes on tobacco products, enlarging the pictorial health warnings to 90% and amending existing laws, including banning e-cigarettes, are now top priorities.

They gave the remarks during the webinar broadcast on Facebook Live, titled "Tobacco-free New Days" on World No Tobacco Day.

Anti-tobacco activist group Stop Tobacco Bangladesh organized the event.

The MPs were Prof Habibe Millat, Shirin Akhtar, Barrister Shamim, Haider Patwari, and Rana Mohammad Sohail.

Prof Habibe Millat, of Sirajganj constituency, said that tobacco harms all the organs from head to toe. Therefore, it is necessary to reform the existing law and strengthen enforcement.

Barrister Shamim Haider Patwari, of Gaibandha 1 constituency, said that neighboring countries have pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packets from 80% to 90%, but in Bangladesh it is only 50%. 

"In our country, it is vital to have 90% pictorial health warnings as well,” he added.

Shirin Akhtar, MP of Feni 1, said that increasing tax on tobacco products is a very timely call. 

"Every year, we raise our voices but the desired progress is not achieved. We have to move forward with a specific roadmap,” she also said.

Rana Mohammad Sohel, MP of Nilphamari 3, said that the government’s expenses of treating tobacco-related diseases is much higher than the revenue of Tk23,000 crore from the tobacco sector, so the government needs to be tougher on tobacco control.

Discussants all agreed that in order to achieve a Tobacco-free Bangladesh  by 2040, it is necessary to impose high taxes on tobacco products, which would increase the government’s revenue and improve public health. 

They hope that this discussion will help teenagers and young people not to become addicted to tobacco and that tobacco users will be encouraged to quit.

Vital Strategies, an international non-profit organization focused on spreading anti-tobacco messages, has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh since 2011. 

They have spread anti-tobacco messages through BTV and private TV channels — already having provided technical assistance for producing 21 TV spots, said a press release.

For the past three and a half years, Vital Strategies supported an anti-tobacco campaign page “Stop Tobacco Bangladesh” that urges the government to enact, reform, and enforce anti-tobacco laws.

The Facebook page has 665,000 followers, and about 20 posts are shared on the page every month of videos and various memes.

According to the page, about 5,000 people in the country have been inspired to quit tobacco use through the page. 

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