Violation of anti-tobacco law rampant

May 31, 2014

Violation of anti-tobacco law is rampant in the country in absence of effective government steps to enforce the law prohibiting smoking in public places and selling of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people below 18 years of age. Against this backdrop, Bangladesh is observing World No Tobacco Day today like other countries in the world. In a bid to protect non-smokers from the harms of passive smoking, the government in May 2013 introduced Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act 2013 banning smoking in public places.
The law also made it mandatory for cigarette producers to put statutory warning on the packets to discourage smoking.
As per the law, anyone flouting the provisions of the law would be fined ranging from Tk 300 to Tk 2 lakh.
However, smoking in public places such as bus stands, hospitals, railway stations, schools, markets is commonplace. Sufferers, particularly the non-smokers said that police or any other law enforcement agencies were indifferent to violation of the law.
Sadifa Sharmin of City College in Dhaka said she suffered every day while waiting for bus at bus stands as many people smoked their frequently.
Meanwhile, anti-tobacco campaigners said due to lack of sincerity on the part of the government to enforce the law, retailers continued selling cigarettes and bidis to people below 18.
Syed Mahbub Alam of Work for a Better Bangladesh said that almost all shopkeepers sell cigarettes to underage people, including school goers.
Sohel Rahman, a cigarette seller at Tejgaon said he had never heard of the law prohibiting selling of cigarettes to people below 18.
Retailers and market insiders said that currently in the country around 40 cigarette and bidi brands were available and no brand’s packets contained
any pictorial warnings on the harmful effects of smoking. The law in its clause 10 stated that all tobacco packets must contain such warnings.
Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote convener Farida Akhter told New Age that for some ‘mysterious’ reasons the government was not taking measures against tobacco companies which were violating the law.
Campaigners said the government’s National Tobacco Control Cell had failed to control use of tobacco and there were lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies and the cell.
NTCC authorities never take any action against the tobacco companies violating the law, including pictorial warnings on tobacco packets.
NTCC project manager Amin-ul-Ahsan said they had only five personnel to carry out work in the country.
He also said that the police and other law enforcement agencies had been instructed to enforce the law.
‘We have no power to fine anyone for violating the law… Only a magistrate can do so,’ he said.
Meanwhile, experts said cases of non-communicable diseases, including high blood pressure, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and chronic respiratory troubles, were increasing rapidly due to tobacco consumption.
Former BSMMU oncology chair Syed M Akram Hossain said tobacco was one of the main causes for the killer diseases which were mostly non-communicable.

-Input from New Age

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