The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

TC advocates in Bangladesh campaign for graphic warnings

Visitors look at graphic warnings for tobacco packages during the exhibition in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka. (c) Iqbal Masud.

Tobacco control advocates in Bangladesh recently organised a three-day campaign to advocate for graphic warnings on tobacco packages. The event culminated in pledges from government ministers to support proposed amendments to the current tobacco control law.

The campaign included an exhibition of warning labels from various countries, a press conference, a rally, and three seminars on various aspects of pack warnings. Each seminar was attended by a cabinet minister or state minister and members of Parliament.

The exhibition was inaugurated by the Industry Minister, who gave his complete support to the proposed amendments to the law. This was widely reported in the media.

Although there is no formal way to hold politicians accountable to their pledges, “their statements have been publicised through the media and are on record”, said Iqbul Masud, Coordinator of Addiction Management & Integrated Care at the Dhaka Ahsania Mission. [] “Tobacco control advocates can utilise those to hold them accountable to some extent.”

The event was open to the public from 10 am to 5 pm and attracted a good number of visitors each day. It was jointly organised by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and AID Society, and supported by CTFK.

The draft bill for amendment is ready to be sent by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to the Cabinet for initial approval. After vetting, it will be returned to the Cabinet for final approval, after which it will be sent to Parliament for approval.

The major proposed amendments to the law are:

  • Introducing pictorial warnings to cover 50 per cent of all major display areas of tobacco packages; further specifications for health messages on packs of smoked and smokeless products;
  • Banning the use of misleading descriptors e.g. ‘light’, ‘low-tar’ and ‘mild’, including colour coding and any misleading brand elements;
  • Broadening the definition of ‘tobacco products’ to make it comprehensive and specifically to include smokeless products like jarda and sadapata (for chewing), and gul (powdered tobacco);
  • Broadening the definition of ‘public places’ to ban smoking in all public places including private workplaces and restaurants;
  • Removing the provision that permits ‘smoking zones’ in public places;
  • Tightening the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) to impose a ban on point-of-sale advertisement (PSA) and restrict activities deemed ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR);
  • Increasing penalties significantly: the fine for smoking in public places 10-fold (from 50 taka to 500 taka) and the fine for violation by companies of any provision of the law from 1,000 taka to 1,000,000 taka.

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