Health Ministry requested the Industry Ministry to take immediate steps
Staff Correspondent: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) requested the Ministry of Industry (MoI) to take steps to temporarily stop the production, supply and marketing of tobacco companies to curb the growing coronavirus pandemic, said a press release yesterday.
It was also requested to withdraw the directive of the MoI given to the field administration to provide necessary assistance for the continuation of the activities of the tobacco company even during the ongoing general holidays across the country.
Joint Secretary Md. Khairul Alam Sheikh, Coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare made the request in an official letter on Monday.
The letter said the World Health Organization (WHO) was trying to discourage the use of tobacco by identifying it as a facilitator of the COVID-19 infection. Smoking increases the risk of various respiratory infections and acute respiratory diseases. After reviewing several studies by the public health experts, WHO recently reported that smokers are highly vulnerable with the COVID-19 compared to the non-smokers.
Also, smokers infected with COVID-19 have a 14-fold increased risk of death. In response to the COVID-19, the sale and purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products, shisha bars, and spitting in public spaces have been temporarily banned in various countries, including India. COVID-19 has also reached alarming proportions in Bangladesh. Under the direct direction of Hon’ble Prime Minister, the government is taking and implementing multi-dimensional measures to deal with COVID-19. The Department of Health Services is doing its utmost to prevent, detect and provide medical services for the growing Covid-19 disease. In this situation, issuing special permits from the MoI to the tobacco companies for production, supply and marketing has complicated the situation. The Communicable Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act 2018, enacted to address public health emergencies and reduce health risks, temporarily closes markets, public gatherings and prohibits movement from one place to another within the country to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. But the tobacco companies continue to violate the law on the pretext of receiving instructions from the MoI.
Therefore, in the interest of public health protection, the MoHFW has requested to temporarily stop the production-supply-marketing of all tobacco companies and purchase and sale of tobacco leaves, including revoking the permission given by the MoI to the tobacco companies to deal with the COVID-19 situation. In addition to reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection, the letter also sought the cooperation of the MoI to take forward the commitment to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 as announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
It may be mentioned that on April 3 and 5, a letter was sent from the MoI to all the divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners of the country asking them to provide necessary assistance in the collection of tobacco leaves, production and marketing of tobacco products by the companies. After that, anti-tobacco organizations including Bangladesh Network for NCD Control and Prevention-BNNCP, an organization of medical professionals of the country, demanded withdrawal of this directive of the MoI considering public health. Considering the appeal, the letter has been sent to the MoI from the MoHFW requesting a temporary ban on the production-supply-marketing of tobacco companies and purchase and sale of tobacco leaves. At the same time, a request was made in the attachment of the letter to take action to stop the production, supply and marketing of tobacco companies with the powers given to the Director General of the Department of Health under the Communicable Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act 2018.