Experts and activists have also made the same demand recently
On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, Progga has called for the introduction of specific taxes on tobacco products and the amendment of the Tobacco Control Act.
In a media statement on Monday, the anti-tobacco platform’s Executive Director ABM Zubair said the poverty-stricken population of the country were predominantly more price sensitive.
Once prices of tobacco products are increased, their use decreases as well as tobacco-related diseases, deaths and other losses. “So, increasing taxes on tobacco is a pro-poor measure,” he said.
Most importantly, to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, cigarettes and other tobacco products need to be brought out of the purchasing capacity of the masses through the imposition of specific taxes, said the statement.
Moreover, Progga said banning the sale and import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products and allowing stricter rules on packaging, including making the size of graphic health warnings bigger, should be adopted and implemented by amending the Tobacco Control Act.
The platform’s call came after many experts and activists on different occasions recently also made the same demand.
Experts at a program recently said that the current tobacco tax structure was extremely complex and a major obstacle for discouraging tobacco usage. The per capita national income (nominal) has increased, but the prices of most cigarettes have remained almost unchanged or increased slightly -- making them more available.
That is why it is important to increase the prices of cigarettes and other tobacco products properly through a specific tax hike, they opined.
Progga said that between 2009 and 2017, the average monthly expenditure for bidi has increased by 50% for each individual smoker. Currently, one person spends on average Tk1,077.7 per month on cigarettes.
Commit to quit
The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, which is being observed on Monday, is “Commit to quit.”
In Bangladesh, however, the theme is “Asun Amra Protigga Kori, Jibon Bachate Tamak Chari” (Come, let us pledge, Let us quit tobacco use in order to save lives).
Progga in its media statement also called for measures such as removing the provision of “designated smoking area,” banning smoking in all public places, work spaces, and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products at points of sale, banning “corporate social responsibility” activities of tobacco companies, banning the sale of single sticks and unpackaged smokeless tobacco.
It said tobacco is one of the major contributing factors to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Tobacco users are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart diseases than nonsmokers.
Tobacco, responsible for 25% of all cancer deaths globally, is linked to at least 20 cancer types. Particularly, lung cancer risk is around 25 times higher in tobacco users compared to nonsmokers. Smokers face a 40 – 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from Covid-19, added the statement citing WHO.
The use of tobacco causes around 126,000 deaths in Bangladesh every year, it said.
As per the WHO’s 2017 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, currently, 38.4 million people in Bangladesh face secondhand smoking in work, transport and other public places on a regular basis.
About 40.8 million Bangladeshis are exposed to passive smoking at home, with the majority being women.
A recent study conducted among school children of Dhaka has also found out that 95% of school-going children have higher nicotine in their saliva samples, which is undoubtedly a result of passive smoking, said the statement.