A platform of 31 organizations engaged in advocacy against tobacco consumption will be organizing their annual conference on Saturday, to be held for the first time at the Liberation War Museum’s permanent site in Agargaon.
The organizers held a press conference on Thursday to announce the event styled ‘Dhaka Conference on Tobacco or Health 2020’ (DCTOH 2020).
Leading figures of the anti-tobacco movement in Bangladesh, including General Secretary of Prottasha Helal Ahmed, Executive Director of Grambangla Unnayan Committee AKM Maksud, Coordinator of the Bangladesh Anti Tobacco Alliance Saifuddin Ahmed, and the Convener of Saturday’s conference organizing committee Kamal Uddin Ahmed, among others, were present at the press event on behalf of the organizers.
They said the conference will present and discuss various issues including financing of tobacco control, weakening of smoking and tobacco use control laws, enforcement of tobacco control laws, as well as suggested amendments to legislation, ranging from continued increases in taxes on tobacco, control of tobacco cultivation and protection of public health from tobacco companies.
AKM Maksud added that more than 161,000 people die in Bangladesh every year and more than 1.2 million (12 lakhs) people are infected with various diseases. Besides, 372,000 people became victims of premature paralysis.
“Tobacco-related diseases and premature deaths cause a financial loss of Tk 30,570 crore to Bangladesh every year, which is 1.4 percent of the national income in the 2017-18 fiscal year,” Maksud also said.
Maksud further added that while tobacco is far from the biggest public health problem for Bangladesh, it does create endless opportunities for the negative externalities associated with it to have a permanent effect.
“Tobacco companies are focusing on expanding the market in developing countries, to regain lost markets due to strict enforcement of laws in developed countries,” he also said.
Maksud also added that currently the biggest challenge in tobacco control is the tobacco companies. The companies continue to influence the implementation of tobacco control laws, and also oppose plus lobby formulation of supportive policies, tax hikes, and control of tobacco cultivation.
“There are many old laws still existing in the books in conflict with the government's tobacco control efforts. It is necessary to update them for the welfare of the state,” added the ex-Feedback vocalist.