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Unrealistic, unimplementable measures to fuel severe socio-economic impact: Critics

Staff Correspondent
17 Sep 2022 18:39:20 | Update: 17 Sep 2022 18:48:11
Unrealistic, unimplementable measures to fuel severe socio-economic impact: Critics
File photo of an illustration picture shows cigarettes in their pack, October 8, 2014. — Reuters Photo

After the government proposed an amendment to the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act of 2005, critics sent over 1,000 letters to the Health Ministry to reconsider it.

In an attempt to bring about another amendment to the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act of 2005 (Amendment in 2013), a draft proposal was uploaded on the health ministry’s website seeking public opinion till July 14.

According to sources within the ministry, there have been over a thousand opinion submissions with elaborate debate regarding the proposed provisions, both in favour and against.

Sources say that a number of national-level associations and business chambers have protested the proposed amendment including the likes of National Association of Small & Cottage Industries of Bangladesh (NASCIB), Bangladesh Dokan Malik Samity, FBCCI, MCCI, DCCI, Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association, Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Traders Association (BENDSTA), Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Mudran Shilpa Samity, lawyers and academics.

They fear that the amendment will have a severe negative economic impact such as loss of livelihoods and loss of crucial tax revenue, especially during a global economic crisis. 

“Ban of street hawkers, mandatory retail license along with illogical restrictions on selling tobacco products will severely impact the livelihoods of over 80 lakh people. Not having a license means Tk 50,000 fine. These small businesses and marginal retailers don’t even make Tk 500 profit every day,” said NASCIB President Mirza Nurul Ghani Shovon.

“We are not against reducing tobacco use but we also have to think about the informal economy’s sustainability, especially in the post-Covid scenario. If we don’t facilitate an alternative source of income for them, small businesses will suffer and unemployment rates will increase,” he added.      

Meanwhile, some believe that provisions such as the abolishment of designated smoking zones and a ban on single-stick will have a negative impact on the progress made so far.

According to BENDSTA President Masud Uz Zaman, Research by The UK Health Security Agency (formerly known as Public Health England) found that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than cigarette smoking.

“Policymakers cannot ignore such an important finding. We believe vaping can help reduce smoking in Bangladesh. It should be regulated under specific guidelines so that it can play an important role in realising the Prime Minister’s vision of making Bangladesh ‘tobacco-free’ by 2040,” said Zaman.

A significant number of parties have expressed grave concern about provisions that will have a negative impact on the informal economy and the overall livelihood of over 80 lakh people associated with the sector.

Since the sector contributes almost 13 per cent of the total internal revenue, the restrictive measures proposed will also dampen the internal revenue collection at a time when the economy is being impacted due to the global economic crisis.