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BATB’s ‘Battle of Minds’event kicks up controversy

Published : Wednesday, 6 December, 2017 at 12:00 AM Count : 618
Banani Mallick

Anti- tobacco members and activists are unwilling to allow The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sayeed Khokon's participation in today's event "The Battle of Minds 2017" organized by the British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB).
Strongly protesting the programme and the DSCC mayor's participation, the activists noted that his participation in the programme will promote the company's image.
A B M Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA said that the BATB organizes such events to recruit youths for the organization. Actually this type of prgrammes is arranged with a hidden agenda.
"About 30 percent of the total population across the country is youth, so the tobacco companies target them through this programme. BATB organizes the annual event to spot and entice the youths in the name of so-called 'merit justification' to influence the policymakers," he said.
Even the section 5.3 of the anti- tobacco law, clearly states prohibition on using tobacco company name, sign, They also invite and engage government officials in their ill-motivated schemes. Officials must refrain from attending such events, he said.
Referring to the telephonic conversation between the BATB secretary Md Azizur Rahman and the PROGGA chief, Zuabir also noted that the phone call was meant to invite him and his organisation in the upcoming December 6 programme as an observer. Considering such attempt as a dubious intention, he said these efforts are meant to promote, expand and endorse tobacco business in the country.  
However, BATB spends millions of Taka to conduct promotional activities like road shows in universities, events in star-rated hotels, banner and festoon campaign, trips and other recreational activities.
Notably, the Section 5.1 of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act 2005 bans all forms of sponsorship or awards for tobacco promotion or advertisement to inspire its consumption and use of trademark or logo for social activities. These are punishable offences.
However, earlier talking to the journalists, Dhaka South Mayor Syed Khokon expressed his unwillingness to participate in the programme realizing the BATBs ulterior-motives.
Referring to the Prime Minister's promise to make the country tobacco- free by 2040, he also noted that similar to the PM's anti-tobacco stance, he too is against it.
Her cabinet also recently approved the draft of "The Health Development Surcharge Management Polity-2017" with a view to controlling the use of tobacco products and to turn Bangladesh into a smoking free country by 2040. While trying to contact several times, this correspondent found the mayor's mobile phone switched off.
When asked Md. Azizur Rahman , if the Mayor will attend the programme, he said that they had not received any written letter yet  from the mayor if he will attend the programme.
He also said that the reason for holding the programme was not about tobacco related matters rather the issue of addressing Dhaka city's traffic jam.

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