Sunday, 07 August 2016 07:58

Tobacco Control Law & Smoke-free Environment in Bangladesh

Deaths attributable to smoking are projected to increase substantially throughout the 21st century and much of the increase will occur in low- and middle-income countries such as Bangladesh, whose population of 160 million makes it the seventh most populous country in the world. More than half of Bangladeshi men over the age of 25 years smoke cigarettes or bidis. Of the estimated 21.9 million smokers in Bangladesh, 21.2 million are males while 0.7 million are females. Hence, one can imagine the level of negative impact smokers have on the environment as a whole- especially when environment

is the least of their concern! 

While health warnings like ‘Quit Smoking’ or ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ on the cigarette packets are essential but when a smoker smokes, he smokes despite knowing most, if not all, the aftereffects. Smoking is highly addictive and it is not something one can quit in a hurry. An average person attempts to quit smoking six times before he actually succeeds. While smoking, a smoker does not only bring detrimental effects upon himself but also upon those surrounding him and obviously the environment at large. This is where the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Rule 2015 is expected to play a significant role.

The principal law passed by the Bangladesh government in relation to prevention of smoking was Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act 2005 which came into force in 2006. With the overflowing concern, criticism and awareness regarding the perilous effects of smoking, the government updated the law on the control of tobacco in 2013. Subsequently, the  government passed the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Rule, 2015 to fill out the gaps in the principal law. The 2015 Rule elaborately talks about many of the provisions of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act 2005 as amended by Act No.16 of 2013. Under the 2015 Rule, smoking area has specifically excluded public places and public areas like inside a library, educational institution, hospitals, inside a cinema hall, a one room public transport, etc. 

This article has been compiled and created by the Attorneys/Solicitors/Advocates/Lawyers of FM Associates Bangladesh. The  2015 Rule has ensured that the health warning signs should be effectively advertised by making it prominent so as to catch everyone’s eye as opposed to being obscured by anything which does not translate the actual purpose of such health warning sign. The rule specified unambiguously that if it is a public transport like train, launch, etc which has more than one room, then the designated place for smoking should be at the rear end and not in the main room for passengers. Further, it has extensively dealt with the control on displaying the usage of tobacco products in movies and it has specified the use of the health warning in the middle of the screen covering at least one fifth of the screen which should be in white letters against a black background in Bengali with the following words- 'Smoking/consuming tobacco causes death'. It further states that a smoke free area shall be segregated from a smoking area and it needs to be ensured that smoke from the smoking area does not enter the smoke free area and so on. 

Nevertheless, one of the most ironic part of the legal framework of Bangladesh is that one needs license to sell alcohol but not for cigarettes whereas the gravity of danger caused by cigarettes is a lot more than that of alcohol. The tobacco control legislation clearly prohibits sales of tobacco products to anyone below 18 years and  employing anyone below 18 years in tobacco sales is also a punishable offence. However, to our utter dismay neither the customers are aware about it nor the vendors selling the tobacco products. 

Though the government should be applauded for walking the extra mile and enforcing the 2015 Rule, it is unlikely to be of any use if the responsible governmental agencies do not act strictly and impose sanctions as and when required. Bangladesh does not lack laws, it has plenty and most have been drafted with precision but what is lacking is the implementation and effectiveness of the laws. As long as the law enforcement officers are smoking while sipping tea at a road-side tea-stall, changes shall only be seen on paper!




Last modified on Saturday, 20 August 2016 06:32