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OP-ED: No public smoking please

  • Published at 01:53 am December 29th, 2020
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The future of Bangladesh could depend on it

According to a Tobacco Atlas 2018 survey, tobacco use caused nearly 126,000 deaths, accounting for 13.5% of all deaths in 2018 in Bangladesh. A similar report by the WHO in 2018 suggested that  On the other hand, according to the WHO, current evidence suggests that the severity of Covid-19 is higher among smokers.

People needing to travel in public transport, visiting public places, and staying in hotels is a normal part of life. As per Bangladesh Tobacco Control Law 2005 (later amended in 2013), section-4, smoking is strictly prohibited in all public places. 

In reality, it is not practised anywhere, even though it is strictly mentioned in the law.

Here, the major problem that exists in the first place is the conflict between Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and Bangladesh Tobacco Control Law 2005 which was later amended in 2013. In FCTC, there is no provision of designated smoking areas whereas in the latter, smoking is strictly prohibited in all public places. 

The problem has been identified, and now a practical solution has to be immediately found and acted upon. 

Passive smoking causes severe health harms. The journal Lung Cancer, Volume-61, writes that that second-hand smoking increases the risk of lung cancer in every individual. 

From the official website of American Non-smoker’s Right Foundation, we know that second-hand smoking damages the immune system of the human body and a weaker immune system increases the likelihood of getting infected by all diseases, including Covid-19. 

An unhealthy population leads to an unproductive workforce, resulting in less economic prosperity and, ultimately, less overall development of Bangladesh. That is a reality nobody wants.

From a news report of Dhaka Tribune titled" Is a smoking ban a good idea?" we have learned that  a no smoking zone simultaneously displaces smoking, and concentrates it within small smoking areas. Hence, separate smoking zones in public places do not save us at all, rather they cause health harms.

Similarly, according to a WHO report, it has been written that separate smoking rooms and ventilation systems are not effective in preventing the exposure to second-hand smoking. We can clearly see that the provision of a designated smoking area does not solve the puzzle of ensuring good health for the citizens of the country. 

Moreover, its removal would also be a step forward in fulfilling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s declaration of making Bangladesh a tobacco-free country by 2040. 

We also know that the government expenditure is higher on the treatment cost of tobacco-related diseases than the profit from the production and sale of tobacco. 

Journalists can play a significant role in the campaign of removal of designated smoking areas in the hospitality sector by raising their voices, showing the severe harms they cause to the general people. The law acts as a barrier in solving the problem and so it has to be immediately amended. 

Moreover, the media also catch the attention of the government by highlighting the negative influences of the tobacco companies, which can help the government take the right decisions for law amendment regarding the removal of designated smoking areas. 

Government agencies and ministries should also come forward to work for removal of designated smoking areas. The law ministry, aviation and tourism ministry, and health ministry officials can work together under one umbrella to take immediate practical steps to amend the Tobacco Control law highlighting the importance of public health.

Muhammed Rubayet is currently working as Media Manager, Tobacco Control Project of Health Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission and he can be reached at [email protected]