“ Put taxes on tobacco, electronic cigarettes remain the top priority ”

Neighboring countries have pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco products from 80% to 90%, but in Bangladesh it is only 50%

Four members of parliament (MPs) recently highlighted in a webinar that imposing higher and specific taxes on tobacco products, expanding picture health warnings to 90% and changing existing laws, including banning electronic cigarettes are now top priorities.

They made the remarks during a webinar on Facebook Live, titled “New Tobacco Free Days” on World No Tobacco Day.

Stop Tobacco Bangladesh anti-tobacco activist group hosted the event.

The deputies were Prof. Habibe Millat, Shirin Akhtar, lawyer Shamim, Haider Patwari and Rana Mohammad Sohail.

Professor Habibe Millat, from Sirajganj constituency, said tobacco damages all organs from head to toe. Therefore, there is a need to reform the existing law and strengthen its enforcement.

Lawyer Shamim Haider Patwari, from Gaibandha 1 constituency, said neighboring countries have pictorial health warnings on packages of tobacco products from 80% to 90%, but in Bangladesh it is only 50% .

“In our country, it is also vital to have 90% pictorial health warnings,” he added.

Feni 1 MP Shirin Akhtar said the tobacco tax increase was a very timely call.

“Every year we raise our voices but the desired progress is not achieved. We must move forward with a specific roadmap,” she also said.

Rana Mohammad Sohel, MP for Nilphamari 3, said government spending for the treatment of tobacco-related diseases is much higher than the Tk 23,000 crore revenue from the tobacco sector, so the government needs to be tougher in tobacco control.

Participants all agreed that in order to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, it is necessary to impose high taxes on tobacco products, which would increase government revenues and improve public health.

They hope that this discussion will help adolescents and young people not become addicted to tobacco and that smokers will be encouraged to quit.

Vital Strategies, an international non-profit organization focused on delivering anti-smoking messages, has been working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh since 2011.

They have broadcast anti-smoking messages through BTV and private television channels – having previously provided technical assistance for the production of 21 television spots, a press release said.

For the past three and a half years, Vital Strategies has supported a “Stop Tobacco Bangladesh” campaign page that urges the government to enact, reform and enforce anti-smoking laws.

The Facebook page has 665,000 subscribers, and around 20 posts are shared on the page each month of videos and various memes.

According to the page, around 5,000 people nationwide have been encouraged to quit smoking through the page.

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