Monday, February 18, 2019

Bangladesh govt did poorly to protect tobacco control policies from industry: Study

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-09-07 05:14:10 BdST


The government has performed ‘poorly’ in implementing Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control or FCTC, which relates to protection of health policies from the tobacco industry’s influence, according to a study.

Anti-tobacco group PROGGA published the findings of the study in Dhaka recently.

It conducted the study to assess how the government responded to interference from the tobacco industry and what action it took to deal with the instances of interference in 2016 and 2017.

“Overall, the government has performed poorly in implementing Article 5.3 guidelines. As this is the first report of its kind for Bangladesh, it is the baseline from which improvements must be made,” the organisation said in a media release.

At a programme marking the publication of the study on Wednesday, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the ministry was ready to implement any anti-tobacco campaign in partnership if someone brought any plan.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP criticised foreign investment in the country’s tobacco industry.

Abul Kalam Azad, Chief Coordinator for SDG Affairs at the PMO, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was determined to implement the FCTC to free the country from the tobacco menace.

Former Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique said the effects of smoking should be given importance in the textbooks.  

PROGGA Coordinator Hasan Shahriar spoke about the findings of the study on implementation of the FCTC Article 5.3. 

Bangladesh ratified the WHO FCTC in 2004 and passed a tobacco control law in 2005 based on the Framework.

The government is conducting a number of tobacco control activities along with implementing the obligations under the FCTC, but the overall tobacco control activities of the country, in particular measures to reduce the demand for and supply of tobacco, are being thwarted and debilitated by the repeated interference of the tobacco industry, he said.

The policies based on the FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines adopted in 2008 are yet to be formulated after a decade.

“As a result, different policies and initiatives regarding tobacco control have remained unprotected before the interference of the industry,” Shahriar added.

The FCTC Article 5.3 states: “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

While the government proceeded to implement tobacco control measures, the tobacco industry conducted interference through a pro-tobacco think tank organisation and the agriculture ministry, according to the study.

The finance ministry was influenced by recommendations from the tobacco industry and reduced the proposed tax on bidi from 35 percent to 30 percent in the 2017-2018 budget, the study says.

It also found government officials ‘actively engaged’ in tobacco industry related CSR (corporate social responsibility) programmes in contrary to the FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines.

Tobacco companies were unnecessarily awarded for merely complying with the law by paying taxes, which is a legal requirement, PROGGA said.

It made several recommendations including taking steps to ensure transparency in tobacco controlling activities of the government, and putting a halt on giving awards to tobacco firms for full implementation of the FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines.

PROGGA and Anti-Tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) organised the programme jointly.