Bangladesh faces serious tobacco epidemic. According to the recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2009, 23 percent of adult (=15 years) currently smoke tobacco (Male 44.7 percent and Female 1.5 percent). The estimated number of current adult tobacco smokers is 21.9 million (Male 21.2 million and Female 0.7 million). The smoking rate in rural areas is slightly higher (23.6 percent) than in urban areas (21.3 percent). Half of the smokers use bidis, and the prevalence of bidi smoking in rural areas (13.5 percent) is higher than in urban areas (4.7 percent).
Among all adults, 45 percent were exposed to second hand smoking (SHS) in public places. Male (69.4 percent) are more exposed than female (20.8 percent). Restaurants (27.6 percent) and public transportation (26.3 percent) are the most common places people are exposed to SHS. Among all persons engaged in some occupation who work in indoor areas, 63 percent (11.5 million) were Exposed to SHS in indoor areas of the workplace, and among non-smokers, 75.7 percent (5.1 million) were exposed to SHS at these workplaces.
It is estimated that in Bangladesh total expenditure on cigarettes is 1.0 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and on bidis is 0.4 percent of GDP. The price of 100 packs of manufactured cigarettes as a percentage of per capita GDP is 5 percent and the price of 100 packs of bidis as a percentage of per capita GDP is 1 percent.
Fighting tobacco in Bangladesh will require a strong commitment to the World Health Organisation’s MPOWER strategies. The six MPOWER strategies are:
* Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
* Protect people from tobacco smoke
* Offer help to quit tobacco use
* Warn about the dangers of tobacco
* Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
* Raise taxes on tobacco
Making MPOWER a reality in Bangladesh means effectively taxing bidis and raising taxes on cigarettes, enacting and enforcing strong smoke-free laws, and preventing and countering the advertising tactics of tobacco companies. These are proven strategies that can help avert unnecessary illness and death.
On the eve of Tobacco Awareness Month: 24-30 January, government, civil society should ramp up their efforts to curb tobacco use and raise voice to say NO to tobacco.
Prof Dr AKM Rafique Uddin and Dr Md Shamim Hayder Talukder
President and General Secretary of Non Communicable Diseases Forum (NCD-F) in Bangladesh.
Source: The Daily Star, February 06, 2010