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WHO: Tobacco responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:02 am June 1st, 2018
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According to WHO study in 2009, 41.3 million people use tobacco in Bangladesh, of whom 47.3% are smokers Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Cardiovascular diseases are the top tobacco-related cause of premature death in Bangladesh, according to the UN health agency

Tobacco consumption, in any form, kills more than 161,000 people on average every year, amounting to around 19% of all deaths in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The UN agency for global health released the statistics on Thursday on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day. 

The day was observed around the world this year with the theme, “Tobacco attacks heart: Stay away, save lives,” demonstrating the link between tobacco and cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of deaths in the world. 

According to WHO, cardiovascular diseases – heart-related conditions – are the top tobacco-related cause of death in Bangladesh, killing 66,749 people on average every year – a whopping 41% of all tobacco-related deaths in Bangladesh. 

Another major reason for premature death in the country, cerebrovascular diseases – conditions that caused insufficient blood supply to the brain – cause 24% of tobacco-related deaths. 

Other tobacco-induced reasons for death in Bangladesh are: chronic respiratory diseases causing 28% of deaths, cancers causing 20%, and communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases causing 6% of tobacco related deaths.

According to the Directorate General of Health Services, the number of patients visiting the outdoor department of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases increased by 41.3% between 2009 and 2016. 

The number of tobacco users has been steadily on the rise in the country, said Prof Sohel Reza Chowdhury, head of the department of epidemiology and research at the National Heart Foundation in Dhaka.


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“Over 40% of children now have at least one smoking parent,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. “Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, increase the cost of healthcare, and hinder economic development.”

 The government should put stricter measures in place to control tobacco use in the country, Sohel commented. “The government should also increase funds for tobacco-related disease prevention programs to assist people who want to quit smoking.”  

Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba) said tobacco-related news is seldom covered by Bangladeshi news media. 

Analyzing the news in the last 10 years, Poba found that every year during budget formulation in May-June, tobacco companies stage different programs demanding withdrawal of taxes on tobacco products. 

Prof Rumana Haque, of the Bureau of Economic Research at Dhaka University, said long-term research has shown that tobacco companies adopt different strategies if the price of tobacco products is increased, or higher taxes are imposed. One of its main objectives is to prevent tax increases on tobacco, she added. 

Experts say imposing more taxes on tobacco will effectively curb its use.

Anti-tobacco alliance Progga has demanded a national tobacco control program to be formed under the National Tobacco Control Cell to formulate and conduct awareness programs, research on tobacco consumption, mass campaigns, and alternative livelihood programs for tobacco cultivators.

If the existing taxes are revised and imposed properly, the government could earn an additional Tk10,000 crore in revenue from the sector, according to Progga. 

In addition, around six million adult smokers will be encouraged to quit smoking if prices go up, which will reduce premature deaths due to tobacco use by two million.