World No Tobacco Day
The World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) observe 31 May 2021 around the globe. This year the theme of World No Tobacco Day is Commit to quit. In Bangladesh, the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2021 also resembles the global one: Asun Amra Protigga Kori, Jibon Bachate Tamak Chari. The benefits of quitting are many. Abstaining from tobacco use for a whole year decreases the risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker. Within 10 years of quitting, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker. Compared to those who continued tobacco use, those who quit at about 30-40 years of age, gain almost 9-10 years of life expectancy.
Tobacco is one of the major contributing factors to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Tobacco users are two to four times more likely to get heart disease (heart attack and stroke) than nonsmokers. Tobacco, responsible for 25 percent of all cancer deaths globally, is linked to at least 20 cancer types. Particularly, lung cancer risk is around 25 times higher in tobacco users compared with those who have never smoked. About 80% of all COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is caused by cigarette smoking and smokers are 13 times more likely to die from COPD than non-smokers. Smokers face a 40 – 50 percent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, says WHO.
Tobacco also causes irreparable damage to one’s family and surroundings. As per the 2017 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) of World Health organization (WHO), currently 38.4 million people in Bangladesh face secondhand smoking in work, transport and other public places on a regular basis. About 40.8 million (39%) Bangladeshis are exposed to passive smoking at home, with the majority being women. A recent study conducted among school children of Dhaka has found out that 95 percent of school-going children have higher nicotine in their saliva samples which is undoubtedly a result of passive smoking.
The use of tobacco causes around 126,000 deaths in Bangladesh a year. The financial loss (due to medical expenditure and loss of productivity) incurred per year due to tobacco use exceeds BDT 30,560 crore. A matter of particular concern is that currently the lowest income people have a much higher rate (48%) to use tobacco than the highest earning class (24%). Between 2009 and 2017, the average monthly expenditure for bidi has increased by 50% for each individual smoker. Currently, a cigarette smoker spends on average BDT 1077.7 per month for cigarettes. On the contrary, the average monthly expenditure for education and health of a household is only BDT 835.7 and 700 respectively (Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016). If the money spent on tobacco could be channeled into spending for education, health or the fight against human poverty, the economic condition of families could be radically improved.
On the occasion of the World No Tobacco Day 2021, ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA said, the poor demographic is predominantly more price sensitive. Once prices of tobacco products are increased, it decreases the use of tobacco, tobacco-related diseases and deaths and other losses. So, increasing taxes on tobacco is a pro-poor measure.
Most importantly, to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, cigarettes and other tobacco products need to be brought out of the purchasing capacity of the masses through the imposition of specific taxes. In addition, measures such as removing the provision of “designated smoking area”, banning smoking in all public places, work spaces, and public transport, banning the display of tobacco products at points of sale, banning ‘corporate social responsibility’ activities of tobacco companies, banning the sale of single sticks and unpackaged smokeless tobacco, banning the sale and import of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, and allowing stricter rules on packaging including increases to the size of graphic health warnings- should be adopted and implemented through an amendment of tobacco control law.