Describing Tobacco goods exacerbate COVID-19 infection and are not essential commodity, 20 anti-tobacco organizations demanded withdrawal of a directive of the Industries Ministry to continue sale and manufacturing of cigarettes.
Tobacco increases the likelihood of getting infected with novel coronavirus and at the same time tobacco is not an item that can be considered as essential commodity under any circumstance, PROGGA, an anti-tobacco platform, said on Tuesday in a statement.
It said the World Health Organization (WHO) has also expressed concern that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to frequent hand-mouth contact and also that lung disease or reduced lung capacity due to smoking greatly increases the risk of serious illness.
South Africa has already taken this WHO warning very seriously and imposed ban on the sale of cigarettes and alcohol. In the Philippines, one local government has temporarily banned cigarette sales.
Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, amid the worsening pandemic situation, two multinational tobacco companies have been exempted from govt- declared restrictions, allowing those companies to continue cigarette manufacturing, marketing and purchasing tobacco leaves, said the statement.
“It should be noted that in Bangladesh, 37.8 million adults use tobacco and 41 million people fall victim to second-hand smoke in their own homes. This huge portion of our population, victims of direct or indirect tobacco use, are currently at grave risk of severe coronavirus infection. Considering the detrimental effect of tobacco on public health, the Prime Minister has made a commitment to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040,” the statement added.
Considering the circumstance, 20 anti-tobacco organizations (Bangladesh Cancer Society, BCCP, ACD, YPSA, Aid Foundation, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, BNTTP, BITA, Grambangla Unnayan Committee, NATAB, Prattashya, TCRC, National Heart Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, UFAT, TABINAJ, Voice, WBB Trust, Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) and PROGGA) urged the government to withdraw the directive and temporarily ban sale of cigarettes during this corona pandemic.