Tobacco kills 162,100 people a year in Bangladesh
Rafiqul Akter: Bangladesh received US$3.61 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) last year but the tobacco sector alone received an amount of $1.47 billion during the period.
The major portion of FDI came from Japan to acquire local Akij Group’s tobacco business and the foreign investment is substantial in several tobacco companies in Bangladesh, including the British American Tobacco, which is the top market player.
According to Progotir Jonno Gyan (PROGGA), an anti-tobacco research organisation, tobacco products kills over 162,100 people in Bangladesh a year. The government is discouraging to use tobacco products to consider the public health and the authorities concerned significantly increased the tobacco products for this.
However, the government is planning to restrict foreign direct investments (FDI) in the tobacco sector so that the supply of the harmful elements can be curtailed, ministry sources said. The draft National Tobacco Control Policy, which was recently sent to the ministries and departments concerned seeking opinions, said controlling the supply chain is important alongside lowering the demand to contain tobacco consumption.
The draft policy noted that to contain the tobacco supply in the market, steps will be taken to encourage farmers to cultivate other crops instead of tobacco. A separate policy will be formulated to control tobacco cultivation, it said.
Farmers engaged in tobacco cultivation will be given permanent jobs in other sectors, according to the policy. No new licences will be issued for setting up factories for producing tobacco products.
Necessary rules and regulations will be framed and implemented to stop illegal tobacco trade in the country and international protocols on this issue will be executed.
Electronic cigarette, IQOS, electronic nicotine delivery systems, electronic non-nicotine delivery system, and production, trading, importing and marketing of all types of electronic devices for tobacco use will be banned.
The draft, referring to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2017, noted that some 35.3 per cent of adult people in Bangladesh consumes tobacco on smoked or in smokeless form.
Besides, 39 per cent adults at home and 44 per cent people at their workplaces are exposed to secondhand smoke. Nearly seven per cent school-going youths use tobacco.
The draft also noted that the annual financial losses from tobacco use in fiscal year 2017-18 were over Tk 300 billion, much higher than the revenue income of Tk 228 billion from the sector in the same year.
Former finance adviser Dr A B Mirza Azizul Islam appreciated the government decision of barring foreign investment in the tobacco sector.
“Of course, the new investment in the tobacco sector should be discouraged,” he told Daily Industry.
He said like in the past, this fiscal’s budget also raised taxes on cigarettes but not on bidis, whose main consumers are the poor people.
The differentiated tax on tobacco needs to be reviewed to discourage its consumption, especially considering the poor’s health, he noted.
Dhaka University former vice-chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique said multidimensional efforts were needed to build awareness among people against tobacco as well as considering the impact of any foreign investment in the country before accepting it.
A leading global tobacco company, Japan Tobacco Inc tried for six years to enter into the Indian market but India denied accepting the foreign direct investment in tobacco sector and Bangladesh should also refuse the FDI, industry insiders said.