Implement tobacco pictorial warnings by September 19

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 11 Aug 2017, 00:44:53

Implement tobacco pictorial warnings by September 19

Campaigners demand
FE Report

 Anti-tobacco campaigners on Thursday demanded legal  implementation of the graphic health warnings (GHWs) on the tobacco packets by September 19.

They put forth the demand from a human chain programme in front of National Board of Revenue (NBR) building.

National Heart Foundation, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, ACD, YPSA, Protyasha, AID Foundation, UBINIG, WBB Trust, BCCP, TCRC, and PROGGA organised the human chain.

The event was addressed by Helal Ahmed of Protyasha; Syeda Ananyanna Rahman of WBB Trust; Aminul Islam Bokul of AID Foundation; Shahida Akhter of TABINAJ; Mohammad Bojlur Rahman of TCRC; and Nazmul Haider of YPSA.

A team of the campaigners submitted a memorandum to NBR Chairman MD Nojibur Rahman after the human chain.

Participants at the human chain said legal implementation of the GHWs is on the verge of ruination for the interference of the tobacco companies.

Earlier, Bangladesh Cigarette Manufacturers' Association (BCMA) sent a letter to the NBR opposing the public circular from National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) which ordered to print GHWs on 50 per cent upper space of all sorts of tobacco packets and containers on mandatory basis from September 19, 2017.

BCMA has also pleaded to print GHWs on the current position (lower 50 percent space) with the excuse of using band rolls.

BCMA manipulated NBR last year by threatening with reduced revenue for the government and it appears that it will do the same this year.

The cigarette company owners and managing directors (MDs) had a closed-door meeting with the Finance Minister, which was also attended by the commerce minister, NBR chairman and other high government officials concerned.

Besides, the NBR arranged a meeting on Thursday with the participation of representatives of the cigarette companies and officials of the law ministry, health ministry and NTCC.

But as per the FCTC Article 5.3, there is no scope to discuss with the tobacco companies regarding implementation of the tobacco control policy, observed the campaigners.  

The participants at the human chain also noted that the band rolls could be used on the sideline of the tobacco packets and containers instead of the back and front parts.

It will also help to implement the stamp or band roll directives of 2017 and simultaneously will implement the law of 2013 and rule of 2015 to sustain the GHWs on the upper 50 per cent space of the packets without hampering the band rolls.

Some other countries including Canada use stamps on the side of the tobacco packets.

Remarkably, printing GHWs on tobacco packets is one of the acknowledged strategies of tobacco control.

The importance of this initiative in Bangladesh is greater as a significant number of people here are illiterate.

According to the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act 2013 and Rules 2015, printing GHWs on all tobacco packets have been made mandatory from March 19, 2016.

After Section 10 of the law, the GHWs were supposed to be printed covering 50 per cent upper space of the tobacco packets but due the interference of the tobacco companies, the law ministry issued a temporary permission to print the GHWs covering 50 per cent lower space of tobacco packets and the NTCC issued a public circular about the issue on March 16, 2016.

When the anti-tobacco activists lodged a writ petition with the High Court, the court declared the circular illegal after hearings.

Based on the facts, the NTCC issued another public circular on July 04, 2017 prescribing to print GHWs on 50 per cent upper space of tobacco products mandatorily from September 19, 2017.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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