Twenty anti-tobacco organisations in the country on Tuesday demanded a temporary ban on the sales of cigarettes during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, claiming that tobacco use exacerbated COVID-19 infection.
The organisations also demanded withdrawal of the industries ministry’s directives that exempted two multinational tobacco companies from the government’s restrictions and allowed continuing cigarette manufacturing, marketing and purchasing tobacco leaves.
The organisations, including Bangladesh Cancer Society, Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance, National Heart Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance and PROGGA, said in a press release that tobacco use increased the likelihood of getting infected by novel coronavirus.
Tobacco is not an item that can be considered as essential commodity under any circumstances, they said.
The World Health Organisation has also expressed concerns that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to frequent hand-mouth contact and lung disease or reduced lung capacity as smoking greatly increases the risk of serious illness.
Taking the WHO warning seriously, South Africa has already imposed a ban on the sales of cigarettes and alcohol.
In the Philippines, one local government has temporarily banned cigarette sales.
Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, amid the worsening pandemic situation, the industries ministry has recently given instructions to district administrations to allow British American Tobacco Bangladesh and United Dhaka Tobacco Company Ltd, a concern of Japan Tobacco International, to continue cigarette manufacturing, marketing and purchasing tobacco leaves.
Terming the move as anti-public health, the organisations said that it would undoubtedly create frustration among the public.
In Bangladesh, 37.8 million adults use tobacco while another 41 million people fall victim to the second-hand smoking in their own homes and this huge portion of population are currently at a grave risk of severe coronavirus infection, they said.
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