04 Aug 2010
Mobile courts in Bangladesh continue chasing down violators of the country’s tobacco law.
With the help of non-government orgainsations (NGOs), the local government in the Kustia Sadar sub district formed a mobile court in July to fine people for smoking in public places, including the Bittipara Bazar and Kustia-Jhenaidah Highway. Four bus drivers were also fined for smoking in their buses. The court also removed illegal cigarette advertising.
In Bangladesh, mobile courts are created to enforce laws for certain violations such as smoking in public places, displaying tobacco ads or selling tainted foods. Power under the court is limited to a relatively small fine (50 taka or $US0.72 for public smoking and 1,000 taka or $US 14.40 for illegal advertising) and a short jail sentence.
Since 2005 district and sub district officials in Bangladesh have created more than 1,000 mobile courts.
BELOW: WatchYouTube video of the mobile court removing large sign boards with cigarette advertising.
According to NGO representatives who were present at the time, non-smokers appreciated the initiative. “People were happy to see these laws being upheld and that tobacco control was being taken seriously by authorities,” said Mir Abdur Razzak, executive director of Social Advancement Forum (SAF) and a member of Bangladesh Tamak Birodhi Jote-BATA (Bangladesh Anti Tobacco Alliance).
Earlier, SAF and BATA representatives had compiled a list of locations where illegal advertising was seen. They presented this list to the local task force committee, requesting it to create a mobile court to ensure that anti-tobacco laws were enforced.
From billboards to shop signs
According to Mir Abdur Razak, when Bangladesh passed its tobacco control law in 2005 it banned smoking in public places, including public transport and direct ads (billboards, signboards, posters, TV and newspaper ads). As a result, the tobacco industry removed most of its billboards and stopped advertising in newspapers and TV, but it began distributing large numbers of signboards to retail shops around the country.
As a result, NGOs began meeting with district or sub district authorities to inform them that tobacco companies’ signboards also were illegal, and convinced them to use mobile courts to enforce the tobacco control law. Soon, NGOs throughout the country began contacting their local authorities to report violations.
Tobacco industry signboards, which had been displayed widely throughout Bangladesh, virtually disappeared within a few months.