The Tobacco Epidemic
Around 43% of the adult population use tobacco. Roughly half of tobacco users smoke while the remainder use smokeless forms of tobacco. Men overwhelmingly smoke more (45% of men smoke compared to 1.5% women); smokeless tobacco is particularly popular among women. Bidi, which are locally made hand-rolled cigarettes, account for 75 percent of cigarettes sold in Bangladesh.
Among youth (age 13-15), 42 percent are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places and 35 percent are exposed to second-hand smoke at home. Among adults 63 percent (68 percent men and 30 percent women) are exposed to second-hand smoke at the workplace.
Tobacco kills over 95,000 people each year in Bangladesh and is responsible for 24% of male deaths and 12% of female deaths. It is responsible for roughly 1.2 million cases of illness. The economic cost of tobacco is estimated to be 863 million USD.
Policies in Place
Bangladesh ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004.
The primary national law regarding tobacco is The Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act, 2005, as amended by the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013. The Act:
- Prohibits smoking in many public places and work places, but allows smoking areas in some spaces, such as restaurants and hotels. Many outdoor areas (e.g. children’s parks, fairs and bus stops) are also smokefree with some smoking areas allowed in these locations.
- Prohibits all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including point of sale.
- Requires Graphic Health Warnings covering at least 50% of the front and back of packaging for smoking and smokeless tobacco. Text must be in Bengali.
- Allows sub-national regulations that are stricter than the national law.
The Union's achievements
The Union piloted the Smokefree implementation and enforcement workshop in Bangladesh in January 2013. During the workshop, delegates joined together to issue a press release warning against designated smoking areas being included in forthcoming legislation. Most importantly, delegates also developed action plans aimed at passing the tobacco control law amendment bill in Parliament by April 2013 and conducting a smokefree public information campaign in all public places and on public transport.
For twelve months prior to the passage of the amended Act in 2013, The Union conducted regular advocacy meetings with high-level government ministers. This engagement across ministerial stakeholders helped move the legislation through the Cabinet Ministers’ review, and, in particular, pass the Ministry of Finance which had blocked the legislation for over a year. The Union provided specific recommendations to MPs for addressing existing loopholes, particularly regarding removal of the provision for designated smoking rooms.
In Bangladesh, The Union's projects focus on strengthening civil society for long-term sustainability of tobacco control, development and enforcement of sub-national smokefree initiatives and supporting the Government of Bangladesh to improve and effectively implement national tobacco control legislation and policy.