An active campaign for a leading manufacturer of tobacco has seen almost two and a half years of effort to roll out the “hard” anti-tobacco situation in Bangladesh, like smoke.
Ministry of Health is ready to place the draft amendment to the law of 2005 December 19 meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers, after obtaining permission from the Ministry of Finance and other organizations. But he was not raised, and the plan was just shocked.
A deputy secretary, Azam-e-Sadat, who was assigned with the task, later said the finance ministry eventually recalled the draft.
Digging into the reasons which prompted the Finance Ministry to recall a project that they have approved in July last year, bdnews24.com found that British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB), apparently convinced that the finance minister just a day before the meeting of the Cabinet retreat.
According to an official of the Ministry of Finance, the delegation of the multinational tobacco giant has met the Minister Abu Maal Abdul Muhith and handed him a letter, a copy of which is to bdnews24.com.
The letter claimed that the government would lose income if the law was passed.
The Minister in a note on the letter BATB told the National Board of Revenue chairman to look into it immediately. Muhith also asked who initiated the amendments made.
The Minister can not be reached immediately for comment.
But anti-tobacco campaign, said pressure from the tobacco companies was not unexpected. “It’s part of our struggle”, Taifur Rahman, coordinator of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told bdnews24.com.
He said that, if passed, the draft amendment would be “great.” “But it does not reduce government revenue collection immediately. It will take years,” he said, arguing that people will not give up the habit quickly because by law.
He urged the intervention of the Prime Minister, in this case.
BATB in a letter stated that they pay for Tk 73300000000 revenues each year and, in conjunction with local manufacturers of cigarettes, “thousands of people to work.
But experts say that the loss of jobs in the tobacco industry was not caused by actions on tobacco control, but also the companies increase their efforts to the mechanization of production to rise and save money on improving efficiency and reducing payments to farmers.
Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, organizing secretary of the United Forum for Tobacco Control, a group of doctors, said that the World Health Organization in 2004 estimated that Bangladesh spend twice the money it receives from the tobacco manufacturers for the treatment of tobacco-related diseases.
He said that such diseases cause nearly 57,000 deaths and 382,000 disabled people in Bangladesh It takes time to come,” he said.
Chairman of the Forum, Professor of National Dr. Abdul Malik, said: “invisible hand” has always been active, to prevent the process to implement strict anti-smoking law.
“We must work together to conquer our opponents strengths (tobacco companies),” he said, adding that the law was “essential to ensure public health security.
For Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2009, the latest available data, at least 41.3 million people aged over 15 used tobacco in the smoke or smokeless form in Bangladesh. The number was 32.3 million in 2007.
The calculations show 5400000000000 cigarettes consumed in developing countries are about 70 percent of total world consumption of tobacco.
According to experts, tobacco use has declined in developed countries, but increased in developing countries due to weak legislation on tobacco control.
The World Health Organization says “Very poor” families in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Egypt, spend up to 15 percent of their income to purchase tobacco products.