Knowledge for Progress

10th Anniversary of Tobacco Control Treaty-FCTC

Bangladesh Made a Significant Progress in Tobacco Contro

27 February 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the world’s first treaty devoted to improving public health. In the decade since taking effect on February 27, 2005, the FCTC has spurred nations across the globe to implement proven, life-saving measures to reduce tobacco use called for by the treaty, including graphic health warnings, comprehensive smoke-free laws, higher tobacco taxes and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. It has also focused much-needed attention on the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to fight these measures and sell more of its deadly and addictive products, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

Bangladesh is the first signatory to the FCTC. It signed the international treaty in 2003. After signing the treaty, Bangladesh made a tremendous progress in tobacco control. A glimpse of progresses is as follows:

• Smoking banned in educational, health care, and public transport facilities.
• Ban on advertising of tobacco products, sponsorship, and automatic vending machines.
• Text warning labels on at least 30% of the front and back of cigarette packages.

• Warning labels covering 30% of package implemented.
• Cigarette price slabs raised, increasing the supplementary duty (SD) rates in the upper three tiers.

• Introduce the National Strategic Plan of Action.
• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised (taxes unchanged).

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised (taxes unchanged).
• SD on bidi increased from 17.5% to 20%.
• 15% value added tax (VAT) on zarda and gul.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised (taxes unchanged).
• SD of 10% imposed on zarda and gul.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised. Increase in SD on cigarettes by 1% in each of four price slabs.
• SD on filtered bidi raised from 20% to 25%.
• 10% export duty on raw tobacco imposed.
• All cigarette (mainly low brands), bidi, zarda and gul are no longer considered cottage industry and are required to pay corporate taxes.
• Capacity building initiatives for journalists introduced.
• Smoke-free initiatives across country enhanced.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised. Increase in SD on cigarette by 2% at each price slab in the top three tiers and 3% in the bottom tier, increase in the price level of cigarettes.
• SD on chewing tobacco raised from 10% to 30%.
• “Tobacco Tax Policy Cell” was formed at National Board of Revenue to formulate a balanced tobacco policy taking into consideration of health and environmental hazards, employment generation and revenue earnings.
• Export duty on raw tobacco decreased from 10% to 5%.
• An anti-tobacco journalist network (ATMA) formed.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised. Increase in SD on cigarettes by 2% at each price slab in the top three tiers and 3% in the bottom tier, increase in the price level of cigarettes.
• Movement for amendment of tobacco control law increased.
• Some anti-tobacco groups (e.g. TABINAJ, UFAT) formed.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised (taxes unchanged).
• Tariff value of bidi raised (taxes unchanged).
• 100% smoke-free areas to include all public places and the fine was raised from Tk 50 to Tk 300. Fine of Tk 500 for management of public places that fail to enforce laws.
• Fine of TK 100,000 for airing any advertisement for tobacco products.
• All parts of the tobacco plant treated as intoxicants.
• Gul, jarda, and khoyni considered tobacco products.
• Anti-tobacco messages are required it tobacco use is shown in a movie.
• Advertisement at point-of-sale is banned.
• Use of descriptors is banned.
• Graphic health warnings are to be printed on tobacco packs covering 50% of each principal surface.
• Sale of tobacco to minors is prohibited.
• Smokeless tobacco is now part of the definition of tobacco.
• Corporate social responsibility activities are restricted.

• Cigarette price slabs for SD raised. Increase in SD on cigarettes by 4% on bottom two tier; 2% in high tier, unchanged in the premium tier. Increase in the price level of cigarettes.
• SD on zarda and gul raised from 30% to 60%.
• Tariff value of non-filtered bidi raised from 5.345 tk to 6.14.
• SD on non-filtered bidi raised from 20% to 25% and on filtered bidi from 25% to 30%.
• 1% heath development surcharge imposed on all tobacco products.

• Rules under the amended tobacco control law passed.
• Implementation of the tobacco control law is progressing significantly.

Apart from the above progress, the tobacco control issue in mass media is progressing rapidly. According to the media monitoring data of PROGGA, the number of anti-tobacco media pieces was 2483 in 2011-12 which rose to 4472 in 2013-14. On the other hand, anti-tobacco community of Bangladesh has got significant victory against multinational tobacco industry like BATB, Phillip Morris Bangladesh by stopping their ill activities (e.g. promotion of new brands through concerts with university students) to make youth tobacco addict.

Although Bangladesh has formulated a tobacco control law following the FCTC, the law is not fully compliant with the FCTC. Except the provision of Sales to and by Minors, the law is basically some demand reduction measures to reduce tobacco use. There is no enforceable section in the law to reduce the supply of tobacco. Only a section has been added in the law and it says, “The government shall make necessary guidelines to promote for discouragement of producing and using tobacco products, and discouragement to set up industry of tobacco and tobacco related products, discouragement of producing tobacco related produces and farming”. But, still there are no steps taken to implement the section though the country is obliged to adopt measures relating to the reduction of supply of tobacco. Particularly, in line with the article 17 and 18 of FCTC, the country is liable to provide support for economically viable alternative activities to growers, workers, and to take measure for protecting the environment and the health of persons related with tobacco cultivation.

The biggest obstacle to progress is the tobacco industry, which wields tremendous political influence and marketing savvy to fight tobacco control policies and addict new customers. The industry is targeting low- and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s smokers now live. Tobacco giants spend billions of dollars marketing their deadly products in these countries.

In the face of these obstacles, we urge government of Bangladesh to build on recent momentum and mark this anniversary by rededicating themselves to enacting the proven, cost-effective solutions called for by the FCTC. With a thousand lives at stake, Bangladesh must be as aggressive in fighting the tobacco epidemic as the tobacco industry is in perpetuating it.

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