Smoking on in public places and transports

NGO News Desk :: The much awaited Rules for the amended TC law has passed in March 12, 2015. But the commoners are unaware of the Rules and thus it is necessary to disseminate the provisions among them about the Rules and the law. Aiming to popularize the smoke-free place provisions in Bangladesh, PROGGA has launched a mass media campaign. Besides, few reports have been earned as well and two of those are as follows which were published in The Daily Prothom Alo and The Daily Sangbad on 4th April 2015.

Around hundreds of vehicles were stuck at the Khamar Bari intersection on Thursday at 10.00am. A bus driver of a minibus from Gabtoli (route # 22/A) was smoking cigarette sitting on his driving seat. His assistant was smoking another cigarette right on the entrance of the bus. Several women, who took their seats beside the driver, were trying to protect themselves by covering their noses from the cigarettes smokes attacking them from both the sides of the driver and his assistant.

Like this driver and his assistant, many of the people smoke on public transports or at public places, but smoking at such places or vehicles is a punishable offense after the Tobacco Control Rules, 2015 that has been passed in March 12 of the year.

To control the production, usages, trading and advertisement of tobacco and tobacco products, the government has formulated and passed the Smoking and Tobacco Products (Usages) Control Act in 2005 and the Rules for the act was formulated in 2006.

Due to some loopholes, the tobacco control law failed to work effectively. Thus, the law was amended accordingly in May, 2013. After 22 months of passing of the amended tobacco control law, its Rules have been passed in March 12, 2015. Earlier, it was told that the law cannot be implied properly for the want of Rules.

The new Rules contain sections to protect the females and children from the damages caused by passive smoking. Besides, the Rules has made a fine of Tk 300 for smoking at educational institutions, hospitals, office, court premises, covered workplaces and other public places and public transports.

Besides, the Rules also order to exhibit anti-smoking warnings ‘Do not smoke. It is a punishable offense’ both in Bengali and English language at the public places and public transports. There are penalty provisions too if the notices are ignored or not exhibited.

When asked about the tobacco control law implementation, S M Zahangir Alam Sarker, Additional Police Superintendent of DMP mass media cell, said “Public and private campaigns are required to raises awareness about the law. The law is being implemented in some cases. But it is not in full fledge for the want to publicity.”

PROGGA, a leading private research organization, works to enhance the capacity of mass media activists in tobacco control. A B M Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA said, “People who are assigned with the law enforcement are unaware of the law and they lack willingness in implementation.” “Public awareness should be increased to get the desired result of the law”, added Zubair.

According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2009, around 4 crore and 13 lakh people aged above 15 years use tobacco. Following the WHO, 57,000 people in Bangladesh die of tobacco use and around 382,000 turns crippled.

Local and international tobacco companies are influencing the tobacco control activities in Bangladesh to sustain their business and consequently they are adopting different tricky measures too. Manipulation, direct and indirect political pressure, sponsorship on events, crating front groups to support them, financing in pro-tobacco research activities etc. are the very common methods that the tobacco companies adopt here. Marking the upcoming National Budget, they have started lobbying with the relevant bodies of the government so that they could get tax exemptions.

Tobacco companies are adopting different tricky measures to advertise their tobacco products in different parts of the country like displaying empty cigarette packets of retail stores in exchange of a monthly installment, offering small gifts to the cigarette sellers, decorating the stores, organizing concerts, arranging campaigns at the private universities in the guise of creating employment, the ‘CSR’ activities and many more.

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