At least 43 percent of the population above 15 years of age used tobacco in Bangladesh last year and tobacco consumption caused as many as 1.6 lakh deaths in the county in 2016.
Anti-tobacco campaigners at a press conference in the city on Monday said this in reference to the findings of a study done last year by the Washington-based independent population health research center, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Demanding a hike in tobacco tax, the campaigners also referred to the IHME study –Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 – to note that total economic cost of tobacco use from lost productivity and direct healthcare costs of smoking related illness is Tk. 158.6 billion or 1.4 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP.
Seven organisations jointly held the press brief on ‘A Call to the Public Leaders for Making a Strict Tax Law for Tobacco Products to Decrease the Diseases and Death Caused by Tobacco’ at National Press Club.
The organisations are Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA), Bureau of Economic Research of Dhaka University, Bangladesh Cancer Society, Bangladesh Lung Foundation, Doctors for Health and Environment, Women’s Alliance to Tobacco Control and Work for Better Bangladesh.
The speakers said consumption of tobacco products is the first step of drug consumption while a great portion of new tobacco users are young. So it is high time to stop them from using tobacco, they raised alert.
They came up with the demand to increase tax on tobacco products as the move would help increase tobacco prices thereby discouraging people from tobacco use.
Mentioning about the strict tax law of Norway, Canada, South Africa and Thailand they said in Bangladesh at least eight percent of tobacco consumption decreased in last eight years, which was made possible by government’s anti-tobacco initiatives but still the number of tobacco use remains high.
Fahmida Aktar of Women’s Allaince to Tobacco Control said if the existing law about tobacco implemented properly, the tobacco use would come down.
Dr. Hena Khatun, Member Secretary of Bangladesh Lung Foundation said the prime reason of lung diseases in Bangladesh is smoking and at least 90 percent lung cancer is caused by tobacco use.
Romana Haq, Bureau of Economic Research of Dhaka University, said increasing the tax on only premium brands of cigarette would not help rather tax has to be increased on all tobacco products regardless of premium brand to local brands and smokeless tobaccos.
She said along with others measures like awareness building, price increasing of the products also help to reduce the consumption.
Dr Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, Project Director of Bangladesh Cancer Society, Abu Naser Khan of Save the Environmet, Dr Obaidul Baki, President of Bangladesh Cancer Society, Saifuddin Ahmed, Coordinator of BATA also addressed, among others, the programme.