Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, celebrated her country’s progress on tobacco control at the first-ever South East Asian Speakers’ Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Dhaka.
In her speech to senior representatives from five countries in the region, the prime minister highlighted: the creation of a national task force to advance tobacco control, a new sustainable Health Development Fund built from a surcharge on tobacco products and the introduction of graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging in March 2016. The Union assisted with all these projects which are key measures for reducing tobacco use, as detailed in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC].
“Without the FCTC, reaching the third Sustainable Development Goal ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all and at all ages’ is impossible,” said Sheikh Hasina. “The economic and health costs of tobacco use in South East Asian countries are staggering. In India and Bangladesh alone, tobacco kills over 1.1 million people annually, based on conservative estimates. I fully recognise the interdependence between health and development.”
Prime Minister Hasina pledged the commitment of her government to work towards full compliance with the WHO FCTC and stated that overhauling tobacco tax was high on the agenda as the most powerful measure for reducing tobacco use. Bangladesh aims to be tobacco-free by 2040.
The Summit concluded with the release of the Dhaka Declaration – committing all signatories to work towards significant reductions of non-communicable diseases [NCDs]. Tobacco use is the main risk factor for NCDs.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is at present drafting a comprehensive tobacco control policy which will be supported by the Health Development Fund. In order to build capacity for this work, The Union piloted a course on sustainable development funds for tobacco control in Dhaka this January. It was attended by the senior public health professionals tasked with implementing and monitoring the fund.
“The Union has been working in Bangladesh to support the development of tobacco control for nearly ten years,” said Dr Angela Jackson-Morris at The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control. “We are proud to support the government’s National Tobacco Control Cell to develop its capacity as the leading body for tobacco control in Bangladesh, and to work with civil society organisations that have assisted in achieving a strong national tobacco law. Effective implementation of the national law, building on the exciting policy development, is now the key to protecting the people of Bangladesh."