Tobacco has now appeared as one of the major risk factors responsible for most deaths and diseases in Bangladesh.
Every year, more than 1,61,200 people of Bangladesh are killed by tobacco-caused diseases, according to The Tobacco Atlas.
Since 2005, tobacco remained the fourth leading cause of deaths and diseases in the country, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a Washington-based global health research institute.
The economic cost of tobacco use in the form of loss of productivity and direct healthcare costs of smoking-related illness in the country is Tk 158.6 billion or 1.4 per cent of the gross domestic product, according to an estimation of World Health Organisation.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh is going to observe World No Tobacco Day 2018 on Thursday.
This year the day will focus on the impact tobacco has on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide.
World Health Organisation said that tobacco use is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease – which are also the leading causes of deaths and diseases in Bangladesh.
The top leading cause of deaths in Bangladesh are heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, COPD and respiratory infect – in which the tobacco plays a big role, according to different government and international studies.
The Tobacco Atlas data show that more than 1,72,000 children (10-14 years old) and 2,48,80,000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day.
It showed that 39.8 per cent of Bangladeshi adult men, 0.7 per cent adult women and 1.86 per cent boy children and 0.2 per cent girl children use tobacco.
Besides, 31.5 of Bangladeshis use smokeless tobacco.
The tobacco use caused deaths of 25.54 per cent men and 9.68 per cent women or 1,61,200 people annually, the Tobacco Atlas data showed.
Talking to New Age, doctors said that tobacco increases the risks of different respiratory, lung and heart diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, tuberculosis, lung cancer, throat and oral cancer, cerebrovascular disease and respiratory infect.
Anti-tobacco campaigners said though the government is committed to control tobacco, the cheap and affordable tobacco in the country contributes largely to the menacing impact on the health of Bangladeshis.
Bangladesh Lung Foundation member secretary Hena Khatun told New Age that the tobacco causes different types of lung diseases including COPD, lung infection, cancer and asthma.
She said their foundation studies found that 90 per cent of lung cancer patients used tobacco while 22 per cent COPD patients used tobacco.
Bangladesh Cancer Society project director Golam Mohiuddin Faruque said that the leading types of cancers in Bangladesh were lung cancer and oral cancer.
‘Among 11 risk factors of cancer, the attributable fraction of cancer caused by tobacco smoking is considered the highest, followed by chewing tobacco,’ he said.
Anti-tobacco campaigners alleged that the tobacco companies enjoy low tax enabling them to offer tobacco at low price.
Bangladesh Anti-tobacco Alliance coordinator Saifuddin Ahmed said that the tobacco taxation system in Bangladesh was also complex.
The taxation regime includes variations in tax bases and tax rates, both between cigarette brands and between tobacco products like hand-rolled bidi and smokeless tobacco, he said.
Saifuddin demanded lowering the number of cigarette and biri tiers to two and increasing the prices and taxes on the items.
The government passed the Tobacco Control Law in 2005. It came into force in 2006. With increasing awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and campaign by various organisations the government felt the need to update the law and it did so in 2013. Finally, on March 12, 2015 the government has finalised necessary rules of the law.
It clearly showed effective ways of controlling tobacco use in Bangladesh, but the full application of the law was not seen yet in Bangladesh, said Anti-tobacco Women Alliance convener Farida Akhter.
For example, she said, the lawmen tasked with punishing smokers at public places often smoked in public areas.
Professor Rumana Haque of Bureau of Economic Research at Dhaka University said that the most effective way to reduce tobacco use was to raise the prices of tobacco products through tax increases that would lower their affordability.
The Tobacco Atlas observes that the powerful tobacco industry does not fear actions in Bangladesh.
It points out that in 2016, the combined revenues of the world’s six largest tobacco companies staying in Bangladesh was more than $346 billion, 48 per cent larger than the Gross National Income of Bangladesh.
‘The industry is a powerful force that does not fear the actions of nation-states because of their extensive resources and global market power,’ it notes.
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