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Study: Tobacco shops within 100metres of 90% schools, playgrounds

  • Published at 10:34 pm January 4th, 2021
Representational photo

Open display of tobacco products are influencing children to take up smoking, the study says

Tobacco shops, whether portable or regular, have been found within 100metres of 90% of schools or playgrounds, a study finds. 

Speakers said it is causing an increase in the number of new tobacco users as well.

Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) came upon the find in its study -- Tobacco Advertisement, Sales, Product Display, and Purchase Incentives around Schools and Playgrounds -- conducted in 2017 and early 2018. 

Mokhlesur Rahman, assistant director and project coordinator (health sector) of DAM presented the survey findings of two studies conducted in 2017-2018 and in 2019 at a virtual dissemination program on Monday afternoon.

The study was conducted to find out what strategy traders were adopting to attract new customers (children, teenagers) near schools and playgrounds, said Mokhlesur.

He added that another follow-up study was about to be conducted in 2020 to assess the changing scenario but it could not be undertaken due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

What the study found

The first study was conducted around 157 schools and 23 playgrounds in 8 divisional cities, four districts and 11 upazilas. 

The study found the presence of tobacco shops in their various forms within 100 metres of 90% of schools or playgrounds, while 82% of the shops have a tobacco display at the eye level of children (at one metre height). 

Traders in 64%  of the shops were also selling other items like chocolates, toys and sweets which attract children.

Also, 98% of the traders were selling single sticks of cigarettes, the study found. 

In another study conducted in three divisional cities – Rangpur (392), Chittagong (1,000) and Rajshahi (424) – of the 1,816 selling points tobacco was sold in 355 roadside shops, 384 tea stalls, 992 general stores, 15 super shops, 59 only tobacco selling shops and 11 restaurants.

Of the total number of shops surveyed, 83.8% shops displayed tobacco openly, of which 83.9% displayed them on shelves, 56.9% on tables or trays, 7.2% at the cash counter, 7.2% in any other form, the study found.

Speakers for ban of open display

Replying to a question, Mokhlesur Rahman said the result of the study was still valid as no changes had been noticed over the years.

Sharmeen Rahman, senior program officer of DAM, said there was a mention in the Tobacco Control Act about POSs but no mention about displaying tobacco which traders were misusing frequently.

Nasir Uddin, Country Manager of Vital Strategy, said that as there was no ban on exhibition, shopkeepers displayed tobacco items in the way they displayed other products.

These open exhibitions provoke children which led to the increase of new users every day, Deputy Director of Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) Nasima Banu Shyamoli observed.

Meanwhile, Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Super Market Association blamed the lack of implementation of the current laws and proper campaigning for such a state of things.

Speakers at the program recommended banning open exhibition of tobacco, fixing the age of purchasing, banning selling of single tobacco sticks or packets and amending the current law along with ensuring a strict implementation of it.

Government officials unaware why proceedings are halted

Zillur Rahman Chowdhury, joint secretary (Tobacco control) of the Health Services Division (HSD) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said they had already spoken with the upazila and district level administration about conducting mobile court to stop open selling.

Kazi Zebunnessa Begum, additional secretary (World Health Wing) of HSD said although a number of circulars were issued proceedings always came to a halt for unknown reasons.

The additional secretary said there was no regulation that defined the responsibilities of the stakeholders. So, the authorities will initiate formulating the regulations soon.

The chief guest at the program, HSD Secretary Abdul Mannan, said: “It seems the campaign could not be done properly. We have to identify our weaknesses and act wisely.”

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