The incessant interference from tobacco industry has put the public health of Bangladesh under a greater risk as the country's score in the 2021 Tobacco Industry Interference Index stands at 72 which was 68 last year, as per a study.
PROGGA, a research and advocacy organization conducted the study on ‘Tobacco Industry Interference Index: The FCTC Article 5.3 Implementation’.
The study report was revealed at an event jointly arranged by PROGGA and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) in the city’s CIRDAP Auditorium, said a press release.
As per the report, the implementation of World Health Organization (WHO)'s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and also the realization of Bangladesh's vision for becoming a tobacco-free country by 2040 are hindered due to aggressive activities of tobacco companies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the event, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Forestry and Climate Changes Saber Hossain Chowdhury said tobacco claimed more lives than Covid-19.
“Tobacco is killing more people than COVID-19. Nonetheless, the government is yet to take effective tobacco control measures. The question arises whether the government bodies really hold the spirit of FCTC and the PM's vision of a tobacco-free country,” he said.
Convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform and also eminent economist Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said Bangladesh has made very poor performance in the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index.
“We also scored the poorest among our South Asian peers. Why did we perform so poorly?" he said.
To improve the situation, he demanded divestment of the government's share in BATB and reinstatement of 25% export duty on tobacco.
Noted journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul said the government bodies need to be sensitized for not receiving any aid from tobacco industry.
“Receiving donations from the tobacco industry is a clear violation of FCTC as well as in conflict with the declaration of the Prime Minister,” he said.
The study findings show that interference from tobacco companies has increased during January 2020-March 2021 and there has been no progress in the implementation of FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines.
The tobacco industry's attempts were seen to interfere and exert influence in policy-making via diplomatic channels during the period , as per the report.