Demand to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to prohibit the sale of various tobacco products for causing health risks amid the outbreak of novel Covid-19 virusTamak Birodhi Nari Jote (TABINAJ) || Friday 10 April 2020 ||
Eighty-nine women, including artists, physicians, teachers, NGOs, lawyers, labour leader, writers issued a statement to the Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on 8th April, 2020 demanding to stop selling of tobacco products in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19.
We, the members of Tamak Birodhi Nari Jote (TABINAJ), the Women’s Alliance in Tobacco Control have long been working against the negative impacts of tobacco consumption. At present, we are very much concerned about the spread of Coronavirus in our country. We all know that the organ in human body that is most affected due to Covid-19 virus is our respiratory organs, especially the lungs. The people who died of this virus all suffered from respiratory complications. Ventilators are required in the hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. But our hospitals do not have ventilators in sufficient numbers. Not only Bangladesh, many developed countries of the world are struggling with providing proper healthcare services to the increasing number of patients at a time as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. As no medicine has been discovered to treat Covid-19 patients till now, the only way left before us is to take precautionary and preventive measures to contain the spread of this virus. One such preventive measures that can save the lives is by ensuring strong and healthy respiratory organs; and therefore there is need to prevent use of substances like tobacco which could damage our respiratory organs and thus leave us vulnerable to Coronavirus infection.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) any kind of tobacco smoking is harmful to the bodily systems, including the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. COVID-19 can also harm these systems. Information from China, where COVID-19 originated, shows that people who have cardiovascular and respiratory conditions caused by tobacco use, or otherwise, are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Smokers bring their hands close to their mouth every time during smoking cigarettes and thus increase the chance of being infected by the virus. WHO also stated that as smoking causes damages to lungs and other respiratory organs, it exacerbates the health conditions if any smoker is infected with Coronavirus.
We also know besides cigarettes, smokeless tobaccos like Jorda, Gul, Sada pata, etc. damage the immunity of the body, especially lungs and causes inflammation in the respiratory organs. Though sufficient researches have not been conducted till date on the effects of smokeless tobacco, nevertheless it is generally found to be harmful for health by the health experts in the country.
We are very concerned about the fact that though there is a Tobacco Control Act in effect in Bangladesh, 36.2% adult male smoke in our country. The percentage of smoking population among women is 0.8%. The people who died of Covid-19 virus in China and Italy are mostly male. From a statistics it has been found that 70% of the people who died in China are male. Though the number of smokers among women is low in Bangladesh, 24.8% women use smokeless tobacco, while the percentage of their male counterpart in this regard is 16.2%, i.e. less than women.
The number of people infected with Covid-19 virus is increasing rapidly in Bangladesh. Many people have died too. Government has taken some initiatives to contain the spread of Covid-19 by ordering lockdown, social distancing and creating awareness among the people to wash their hands and wear masks, which is commendable. Besides, all the shops and markets have been ordered to keep closed except for the grocery and medicine shops.
Cigarettes and other tobacco items are not daily necessity items. But all these harmful items are freely bought in the shops amid this lockdown situation as these are available in the tea stalls and grocery shops of the localities posing serious health risks. Poor Rickshaw pullers who cannot make their ends meet, however, buy cigarettes, biri, Jorda, Sada Pata from the tea- stalls and grocery shops because of their easy-availability and cheaper price as opposed to the daily necessary foods like rice, fishes, vegetables and lentils.
As we are very concerned about the negative impacts of these tobacco products on public health, especially amid the outbreak of novel Covid-19 virus, we demand prompt action on behalf of the government to remove these tobacco items from the grocery shops and tea-stalls for the greater sake of public health and stop their sale. At the same time we appeal to the government to increase the price of the tobacco items and impose a higher rate of tax on these items in the next national budget to discourage the users from buying it. As it is clear from the statement of the health experts that the impacts of Coronavirus probably will last a longer period of time, we need to prepare ourselves better to combat it.
We, the undersigned persons of this statement, request the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to take necessary steps to promptly prohibit the sale of tobacco items like Cigarettes, Biri and smokeless tobacco items like Jorda, Sada Pata, Gul etc. This initiative is very necessary in the time of such national health crisis.
1. Dilara Zaman, Actress, Dhaka.
2. Kalyani Ghosh, Singer, Dhaka.
3. Aruna Biswas, Actress, Dhaka.
4. Tasmiah Afrin Mou, Film Director, Dhaka.
5. Professor Dr. Samina Chowdhury, Gynecology and Obstetrics specialist, Dhaka.
6. Nazmi Sabina, Development economist on health issues, Dhaka.
7. Khaleda Khatun, Nutritionist, BIRDEM Hospital, Dhaka.
8. Akhtarun Nahar Alo, Chief Nutrition officer and Head of Department, BIRDEM Hospital, Dhaka.
9. Dr. Parveen Begum, BIRDEM Hospital, Dhaka.
10. Halima Akhter, Midwife, Dhaka Nursing Hospital
11. Farida Akhtar, Convener, TABINAJ
12. Rita Bhoumik, Journalist, Daily Jugantor.
13. Zakia Ahmed, Journalist, Sara Bangla.
14. Sultana Begum, Labour leader.
15. Adv. Sumaiya Islam, Lawyer, Dhaka.
16. Sadia Arman, Lawyer, Dhaka.
17. Rokeya Islam, Writer, Dhaka.
18. Mitali Hossain, Writer, Dhaka.
19. Shima Das Shimu, Director, UBINIG
20. Farhana Jaman Liza, Project officer and research associate, TCRC, Dhaka International University
21. Sagufta Sultana, Project Director, Aid Foundation.
22. Nasim Banu Shyamoli, Team Leader, Smoke Free Project, IPSA.
23. Sayyida Akhter, Coordinator, TABINAJ
24. Husne Ara Joly, Program for Women Development, Sirajganj.
25. Aisha Akter, Social Development Service, Joypurhat.
26. Afsana Khatun, Samata Nari Unnayan Sangstha, Chapainawabganj.
27. Mahmuda Parul, Proyash Mohila Sangstha, Gaibandha.
28. Rahima Chowdury, Munshirhat Mohila Samity, Thakurgaon.
29. Alo Das, Ashroy Samaj Kalyan Sangstha, Naogaon.
30. Nasrin Parvin, Shucita Samaj Kalyan Sangstha.
31. Beauty Akter, NIDA Society, Natore.
32. Saida Yesmin, Association for Alternative Development, Kurigram.
33. Akhtarun Nahar Saqi, Porospor, Panchgarh.
34. Nur-E-Jannat, Secchasebi Bohumukhi Mohila Somaj Kolyan Songstha.
35. Jinat Rahman, RDCA, Dinajpur.
36. Rokeya Khatun, Mahigaggo Chawakbazar Mohila Kalyan Somity, Rangpur.
37. Firoza Begum, Paribarik Mohila Unnayan Sangstha (FIDA), Lalmonirhat.
38. Afroza Banu, Ashar Alo Foundation, Narail.
39. Fazilatunnesa Fouzia, Venture Foundation, Bogura.
40. Md. Arifur Islam, Mohila Unnayan Foundation, Faridpur.
41. Hosne Ara Begum, Rupali Mohila Unnayan Sangstha, Netrokona.
42. Ayesha Akhter, Chetona Mohila Sangstha, Narsingdi.
43. Rokeya Begum, Researcher, TABINAJ
44. Fatema Begum, Souharda Nari Kalyan Foundation, Madaripur.
45. Nasima Khatun, Nari Bikash Kendra, Shariatpur.
46. Niva Sarker, Socio-Economic Development Agency, Manikganj.
47. Rahima Akhter Liza, Nari Kalyan Sangstha, Narayanganj.
48. Sharmin Kabir Bina, Jhumka Mohila Samity, Jamalpur.
49. Muslima Akter Morzina, Pradip Mohila Unnayan Sangstha, Mymenshingh.
50. Monju Rani Pramanik, Soroni Manob Unnayan Sangstha, Tangail.
51. Kausar Parvin, Barishal Mohila Kalyan Sangstha, Barishal.
52. Afroza Akbar, Adorsha Mohila Sangstha, Patuakhali.
53. Sajeda Saju, Rural Development Association, Barguna.
54. Bilkis Jahan Munmun, Angina Mohila Samity, Vola.
55. Monoara Begum, Krishnakathi Mohila Unnayan Samity, Jhalkathi.
56. Julekha Islam, Peoples Development Foundation, Pirojpur.
57. Rabeya Begum, Nice Foundation, Khulna.
58. Md. Rasheduzzaman, Research Associate, TABINAJ.
59. Mousumi Farzana, Udoyon Bangladesh, Bagerhat.
60. Mariam Mannan, Chupria Mohila Sangstha, Satkhira.
61. Sharifa Khatun, Welfare State (WE), Jhinaidhah.
62. Salma Sultana, Nikushimaj Samaj Kalyan Protisthan, Kushtia.
63. Rebeka Parvin, Janani Mohila Unnayan Sangstha, Jessore.
64. Laila Kaniz, Rural Development Center, Magura.
65. Sadeka Begum, Anirban Mohila Kalyan Samity.
66. Helena Begum, Tilapara Paribar Unnayan Sangstha, Sylhet.
67. Prova Rani Baraik, Institute For Social Advancement, Moulovibazar.
68. Shahana Begum, Karmaneer Samajik Mahila Unnayan Sangstha, Cox’s Bazar.
69. Farida Yesmin, Shahpur Dustha Mohila Unnayan Sangstha.
70. Yesmin Jahan, Association for Rural Development (ARD), Brahmanbaria.
71. Mst. Nilima Akter, Hill Top, Bandarban.
72. Hasina Chowdury, Ananya Bohumukhi Kalyan Sangstha.
73. Sayera Begum, Sobujer Jatra, Chittagong.
74. Parvin Hasan, Human Development Organization, Comilla.
75. Nawyiu Praru Marma Merry, Eumar Education for Advancement and Empowerment, Rangamati.
76. Saleha Chowdury, Jagadishpur Mohila Unnayan Sangstha, Habiganj.
77. Shahin Sulatana Mily, Akangkha Mohila Unnayan Samity, Chuadanga.
78. Nahid Sultana, Baduarchar Shotodol Samaj Kalyan Sangstha, Gazipur.
79. Mahmuda Khatun, Shotabdi Samaj Kalyan Sangstha, Dhaka.
80. Poly Rahman, Protyasha Shishu o Nari Unnayan Sangstha.
81. Hosne Ara, Chitra Nari o Shishu Unnayan Sangstha.
82. Rokeya Begum, Nari Punarbashon Kendra, Narail.
83. Josna Begum, Janani Mohila Kalyan Samity.
84. Sayada Ananya Rahman, Project Manager, WBB Trust.
85. Sharmin Subrina, Program Director, Association for Community Development.
86. Gaus Piari, Director, WBB Trust.
87. Sharmin Akter Rimi, Program officer, WBB Trust.
88. Sharmin Rahman, Program officer, Dhaka Ahsania Mission.
89. Laynun Nahar, Program officer, Anti-tobacco Program, National Heart Foundation Hospital, Dhaka.
Copies of this document have also been sent to:
Ms. Rina Parveen
Additional Secretary (WH wing)
Health Care Division
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Mr. Md. Khairul Alam Sheikh
Joint Secretary (National Tobacco Control Cell)
Health Care Division
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh