Bangladesh has experienced increased interference from the tobacco industry between January 2020 and March 2021 and there has been no progress in the implementation of the WHO Guidelines.
The country’s performance in the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index also worsened as it scored 72 out of 100 which was 68 in the previous year.
The research findings of “Tobacco Industry Interference Index: The FCTC Article 5.3 Implementation Report, Bangladesh 2021” were unveiled at an event, jointly organised by research and advocacy organisation PROGGA and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) at the CIRDAP Auditorium in Dhaka on Sunday.
Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) requires governments to take measures to protect health policy “from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry”.
Bangladesh has ranked 62nd in the 2021 Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index. The latest report also reveals the concerning fact that tobacco industry interference in Bangladesh remained higher than any other country in South Asia.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, at the event, said, “Tobacco is killing more people than the Covid-19. Nonetheless, the government is yet to take effective tobacco control measures.”
“The question arises whether the government bodies really hold the spirit of FCTC and the PM’s vision of a tobacco-free country,” he said.
Eminent economist and the convener of the National Anti-Tobacco Platform, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said that Bangladesh has made very poor performance in the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index.
“We also scored the poorest among our South Asian peers. Why did we perform so poorly?” he questioned.
The report recommended amending the tobacco control law to make it more compliant with FCTC, by including a comprehensive ban on tobacco companies’ CSR activities, among other issues.
It also recommends elimination of cigarettes from the list of essential commodities by amending the 1956 Essential Commodities Act, formulation and implementation of a simple tobacco price and tax policy, divestment of the government’s share in tobacco companies, finalisation of a code of conduct for relevant government officials in case of interaction with tobacco companies and their representatives, and withdrawal of all incentives provided to tobacco companies along with a ban on investments in the tobacco business.
The tobacco companies should also be declared ineligible for any government recognition and awards, the study recommends.