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Prevalence of smoking and tobacco use decreasing in southwestern districts

  • Published at 09:46 am September 9th, 2013

Anti-smoking campaigns designed specifically for the southwestern districts of Khulna seem to be paying off as a growing number of public workplaces and transports are going smoke-free.

There has been a boost in anti-tobacco campaigns in the region, mostly organised and sponsored by non-profit organisations, resulting in decreasing prevalence of smoking and tobacco consumption.

Campaigners are approaching people from all walks of life, from university students to first-time smokers, with messages presented in graphic detail and focused singularly on increasing public awareness of the habit’s harmful effects.

Action In Development (AID), a non-profit development organisation, launched a tobacco awareness programme in 2009 with the aim to reduce smoking rates in all 58 upazilas of the ten southwestern districts, including Jhenidah, Magura, Kushtia and Jessore.

AID is now implementing the second phase of the programme, called Smoke Free Khulna Division, and has already partnered up with various cause-based volunteer organisations to further its cause.

Dowa Bakhs, the project coordinator, believes an estimated 3 million people, directly or indirectly, would benefit from the project. “We are organising various types of awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes and workshops, and doing everything within our capacity to make public places, indoor workspaces and transports smoke-free.”

Biplob Karmaker, a student of economics in Islamic University and president of the university wing of anti-smoking student organisation Subash, said, “I feel proud to be able to work in reducing smoking prevalence in my university and surrounding places.”

“People are not aware of the harmful effects of tobacco and, even if they are, they do not know to what extent it can harm them. We let them know that through our campaign materials and try to convince them to make an educated choice,” he added.

Subash is a campus-based volunteer organisation based in Jhenidah, affiliated with AID, with student wings in 14 universities and colleges. Its primary aim is to make campus smoke-free in collaboration with the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance.

Anti-tobacco campaigners believe with proper support from government and volunteer organisations, tobacco consumption in Khulna can be reduced to a great extent.

“More than 4000 public transports and workplaces, including that of Khulna City Corporation, have been declared smoke-free and a tobacco guideline was adopted by the corporation authorities. These are some of the achievements of anti-tobacco advocates,” said Dowa Bakhs.

Contacted for comments, Deputy Commissioner of Jhenidah Safikul Islam said tobacco-control programmes like that undertaken by AID are proving very effective in the region.

The World Health Organisation passed its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2003 and Bangladesh happened to be its first signatory from South Asia, he said, adding there is a special urge among advocates to control tobacco consumption in the country for this reason.

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