Tobacco companies are still running promotions and advertisements of their products in different parts of the country -- particularly in rural areas, violating existing laws, finds a recent study.
They carry out such activities through luring vendors with gifts and rewards, says the study, blaming lack of government monitoring.
Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, a non-government organisation working on tobacco control, conducted the study at six locations in different districts, including Mymensingh, Barishal and Sunamganj, between September 2018 and February 2019.
The findings of the study were unveiled at a workshop organised by WBB Trust at Dhaka Club yesterday.
After surveying a total of 363 shops at those locations, the study found that all the shops were displaying advertisements and promotions of tobacco products [both smoking and smokeless] in various ways.
For displaying the ads and selling the tobacco products, the vendors received gifts and rewards from the tobacco companies on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis, the study adds.
The study also found the taskforce committee on enforcement of tobacco control law -- which exists from upazila to national level -- were not working effectively in those areas.
According to Smoking and Usage of Tobacco Products (Control) Act, advertisement and promotion of tobacco products at any store are prohibited. Violators of the law will be punished with maximum three months of imprisonment or fine of Tk one lakh or both.
“Tobacco companies hardly care about the law. They lure vendors to display the ads. They even pay the fine on behalf of a vendor if anyone is penalised on any occasion,” said Syeda Anonna Rahman, the lead researcher.
This kind of violation is happening, and it is very common in rural areas where tobacco companies can easily dodge eyes of the media, she added, while sharing the study findings.
“To address this, we carried out an awareness campaign in the upazilas in the middle of our study. We motivated the vendors to not be lured, and spoke to the taskforce members to make them more active,” said Anonna, a programme manager of WBB Trust.
The result, following the campaign, is remarkable, she said.
Another survey was carried out during the last phase of the study, and it found about one-third of the vendors stopped displaying the ads a month after the campaign, she added.
Speaking at the workshop, The Union's (International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease) technical adviser on tobacco control for Bangladesh, Syed Mahbubul Alam, said the government should bring the tobacco companies under control instead of putting pressure on the consumers alone.
WBB Trust Executive Director Saifuddin Ahmed, noted physician Dr Pran Gopal Dutta and National Anti-Tuberculosis Association of Bangladesh President Mozaffar Hossain Paltu, among others, spoke at the programme.