Demand for signing WHO protocol to stop illicit tobacco trade
Published : Sunday, 31 May, 2015, Time : 12:00 AM, View Count : 54
"World No Tobacco Day" is being observed in Bangladesh and around the globe, with the theme "Stop illicit trade of tobacco products." To mark this day, World Health Organization (WHO) selects a specific theme each year to create mass awareness globally regarding tobacco control. WHO mentioned, eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of US$ 31 billion for governments, improve public health, help cut crime and curb an important revenue source for the tobacco industry. It is evident that globally 10% cigarettes are made and sold illegally. Smuggled cigarettes are everywhere in Dhaka and all over the country. Several studies showed that, more than 100 brands of cigarettes have come through illegal routes. They do not pay taxes, so these brands are available in the market at cheaper prices. Different researches suggest that money coming through tobacco smuggling is used to promote other anti-state and anti-people activities; such as illegal drugs and arms trade as well as human trafficking. No action is taken against anyone who sells illegal tobacco products. One seller, requesting anonymity, told the Daily Observer that there is a high demand for "foreign" cigarettes which do not flag any health warnings, violating tobacco control law. According to tobacco control law, each tobacco packet should have health warnings written in Bengali with "shocking" pictures and warning that breach of the rule is a punishable offence. Talking with this correspondent, Aminul Islam Sujon, Executive Editor of Swamaswar, an Anti Tobacco Newsletter (Published by Bangladesh Anti Tobacco Alliance) , said that as per law of the country all foreign cigarettes are illegal. Asked why illegal cigarettes easily flood into the country, he said "most of sales men are not informed or aware that foreign cigarettes are illegal." Anti-tobacco activists have urged the district administrations to operate mobile court to take action against traders and users of illegal tobacco. Dr. Zahid Malek, MP, State Minister for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, recently said that the ministry issued directives to all deputy commissioners (DC) and civil surgeon to take action against violation of tobacco control law. To stop illegal tobacco trade, WHO passed protocol under the international public health treaty Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), titled "Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products". The WHO urged Member States to sign this protocol and take action against illicit tobacco trade. It is noted that, according to WHO, about 6 million people (users and ex-users) die each year due to consuming tobacco. Besides, 600,000 non-smokers die due to passive smoking. The data given by the WHO suggests that at present a "danger" situation is prevailing across the world due to the effects of tobacco. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030, WHO warned. Around 80% of tobacco users are living and about 70% of tobacco related deaths are happening in low and middle income countries like Bangladesh. According to WHO study in 2004, tobacco consumption was responsible for 1.2 million people having 8 major Non-Communicable Disease-NCDs (including lung and oral cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetics, Asthma etc) and 382 thousands lost their physical activeness and 57 thousands death occurred. A study is conducted by WHO in 2013 showed that around 100 thousand people have died due to effects of tobacco. Dr. Mostafa Zaman, National Professional Officer for NCD prevention of the WHO-Bangladesh, said that Bangladesh as a signatory of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has some responsibility to strongly prevent the deadly product of Tobacco. The Bangladesh Anti Tobacco Alliance (BATA), a civil society platform of about 700 organisations which play a pioneering anti-tobacco campaign, is also member of all Task Forces for tobacco control law implementation at district and sub-district level. Toady BATA and its member organizations are celebrating "World No Tobacco Day" across the country.