New campaign urges Bangladeshis to support smoke-free laws

News Hour:

A powerful national mass media campaign and an info-sign campaign to urge Bangladeshis to support and comply with the country’s smoke-free laws were launched today by Mr. Zahid Malek MP, the State Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The mass media campaign, ধোঁয়া (smoke), was produced with technical support from Vital Strategies, which also supported an info-sign campaign in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, World Health Organization and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

ধোঁয়া (smoke) will air on national TV channels for a period of four (4) weeks from July 14th. The 30-second public service announcement shows the harms of second-hand smoke, explains the benefits of Bangladesh’s smoke-free laws and the need for compliance, and draws attention to the new info-sign campaign. It aims to increase support for and understanding of the need for comprehensive smoke-free laws and help smokers and non-smokers become more confident in asserting their right to breathe air free from second-hand smoke.

The info-sign campaign has been designed to feature specific, tailored messages appropriate for eleven (11) different types of establishments: 1. Educational Institutions, 2. Libraries, 3. Exhibition Centers, 4. Hospitals & Clinic Buildings, 5. Cinemas, 6. Theaters, 7. Restaurants, 8. Children’s Parks, 9. Covered Sports & Exercise Venues, 10. Public Transport, and 11. Hotels. The signs will be printed and distributed to selected establishments in major metropolitan areas of Bangladesh.

Smokers-in-public

A young smoker is smoking in a public place

The State Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Mr. Zahid Malek, MP stated: “We are committed to reducing tobacco-related ill health and premature death for the benefit of our people and our economy, which is also compatible with our commitments under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Clearly, it’s essential to address the issue of second-hand smoke to protect the health of non-smokers, especially women and children. We urge people to heed this powerful campaign and insist that smokers respect others’ right to breathe smoke-free air and comply with Bangladesh’s smoke-free laws.”

José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vital Strategies commented: “We congratulate Bangladesh’s Government on the launch of this campaign, which shows its continued commitment to protecting the health of Bangladeshis from the deadly harms of tobacco. We are delighted to support the Government in this initiative, and also recognize the invaluable contribution of World Health Organization and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The combination of ধোঁয়া (smoke) hard-hitting message to increase awareness and the new info-signs providing additional, ongoing prompts for behavior change, is sure to have a real impact in protecting smokers and non-smokers.”

According to The Tobacco Atlas, tobacco is the cause of 14.6 percent of adult male deaths and 5.7 percent of adult female deaths in Bangladesh – more than the average in other low-income countries. Tobacco-related disease – including stroke – kills almost 100,000 Bangladeshis every year while another 382,000 suffer from chronic illnesses caused by tobacco. Proportionately, more women die from tobacco-related disease than use tobacco: just 1.8 percent of Bangladeshi women smoke cigarettes, suggesting that exposure to second-hand smoke is a cause of tobacco-related death among non-smoking women.

While Bangladesh introduced smoke-free laws and strict penalties for breaking those laws in 2013, the law does not cover all public places and includes exemptions. Fully comprehensive smoke-free laws and strong enforcement could help to reduce smoking prevalence and the burden of tobacco-related disease.

Research has shown that mass media campaigns are among the most effective means to encourage people to stop using tobacco. Hard-hitting campaigns and images can compel tobacco users to quit, increase knowledge of the health risks of tobacco use, and promote behavior change in both smokers and non-smokers. They are featured in the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which Vital Strategies is a principal partner.

Tareq Salahuddin

Dr. Tareq Salahuddin is an award-winning journalist and a Special Correspondent of News Hour. He is a Public Health Professional working in the development sector. Dr. Tareq, a medical graduate, is a member of Public Health Association of Bangladesh and a former member of the Governing Council and Policy Committee of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), a J2J Fellow on HIV/AIDS and a member of the International AIDS Society. To know more about Dr. Tareq, please visit his personal website (www.tareqsalahuddin.net) or simply Google his name.
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