Civil society leaders and anti-tobacco practitioners on Saturday urged the government to divest its investment from tobacco companies to show its commitment towards a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.
“The government should divest from British American Tobacco Company and sell all shares to show its commitments to make the country free of tobacco,” said Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), while presiding over a function at the CIRDAP auditorium in city.
VOICE, a rights-based research and advocacy organization organized the event to share the findings of its study titled: “Tobacco Company Interference with Tobacco Taxation Process in Bangladesh”.
The event was also addressed by former secretary and NBR Chairmen Dr. Muhammad Abdul Mazid and Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed while Ataur Rahman Masud, senior policy advisor of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids moderated the function.
The PKSF chairman said a uniform specific tobacco tax rate would be far more effective for reducing tobacco consumption and its affordability in Bangladesh.
"This system tends to lead to higher prices for all brand levels, reduces the incentive to switch to lower-priced brands, and is easier to administer when compared to ad valorem one," he said.
Former NBR chairman Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed said the firm political commitment is prerequisite for a tobacco-free Bangladesh.
He said tobacco industry interference in the national policy making has been going on for many years in a very strategic manner.
Another former chairman of NBR Muhammad Abdul Mazid said no political party has kept “tobacco-free Bangladesh” as an agenda in their official manifesto.
He said tobacco industry involvement in any youth, public education, or other tobacco control initiatives should be banned. “CSR activities carried out by the tobacco industry also should be prohibited,” he added.
The speakers stressed on the need of adopting a comprehensive tobacco tax policy including the end of tax preferential treatments for tobacco companies.
They said political parties and the government require political commitment to achieve the goal of becoming a tobacco-free country.
Among others, Abdus Salam Mia, Grants Manager, CTFK, Development researcher Fazlul Haq Mazumder, and activist Sharmin Rini also spoke on the occasion.