In gross violation of the tobacco control law, sale of cigarettes is rampant on the peripheries of hundreds of schools and hospitals in Chattogram, a research shows.
The Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act, formulated in 2005, prohibits consumption and sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions and hospitals.
Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts (Bita), an NGO, monitored 41 wards of the port city between September and October last year and found 5,536 shops selling tobacco products within 100 yards of 885 schools and 162 hospitals.
Out of 16,059 shops surveyed, 11,462 did not have licenses from the city corporation. At least 646 underage boys and girls were engaged in the business, according to the study.
Bita assigned 10 teams who talked to shopkeepers and hawkers selling tobacco products, said Sisir Dutta, executive director of BITA.
“What we found is gross violation of the law. We even found people smoking inside hospital wards. The government aims to make Bangladesh a smoking free nation by 2040 but it is not strictly enforcing the law,” Sisir said, urging the authorities to keep a watch on public places and penalise lawbreakers.
The city corporation must come forward as it runs most of the educational institutions in Chattogram, he opined.
Chairman of Chattogram Education Board Prof Shaheda Islam said the Bita findings has come as a worry trigger. “I personally wrote to the police commissioner and district administration several times. They do take action but the tobacco sellers somehow find their way back again and again.”
“The police force has to handle numerous other issues which are more concerning. Given the situation, it is difficult to prioritise this issue,” Chattogram Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mahbubur Rahman told The Daily Star.
About the Bita study, he said, “The findings are alarming. We will take action as per the law. I will alert my team.”
Chattogram Civil Surgeon Azizur Rahman Siddiqui said hospitals and clinics had been directed through circulars not to allow consumption or sale of tobacco within 100 yards of their premises.
“But we do not have the power to execute the law. I will request the deputy secretary to issue a directive,” he told this correspondent.
Md Elias Hossen, deputy secretary of Chattogram district administration, said he had been notified about the Bita study. “Due steps would be taken,” he said, adding, “Containing sale of tobacco inside the metropolitan is quite a challenge because it is a densely populated area.”
Established in 1994, Bita focuses on human rights, cultural expansion and poverty alleviation.