The Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage Act, 2013 does not allow tobacco companies in Bangladesh to telecast a direct advertisement that promotes or inspires tobacco consumption.
But recently, e-commerce website buyherenow.com.bd showed a pop-up tobacco advertisement of Benson & Hedges (B&H) — a product of British American Tobacco (BAT).
Research and rights-based organisation VOICE organised a webinar titled “Malpractices of Tobacco Companies in Bangladesh” on Thursday to raise awareness against this action.
The speakers present at the webinar urged the government to take immediate measure against the action and they also called for banning CSR programmes of tobacco companies.
The webinar was moderated by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE. Eminent personalities like journalist Manzur Ahsan Bulbul, Nadira Kiran, co-convenor of ATMA, MA Salam, grants manager at Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), and Sharmeen Rahman, program manager at Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), were present at the webinar.
Nadira Kiran said, “It is time we introduce a law to ban CSR activities of the tobacco companies. As the tobacco companies cannot show direct advertisements, they are using their CSR activities to promote their company and the brand.
“If we can completely stop their CSR activities, the marketing will stop,” she said.
Though there is no restriction in selling tobacco products online, showcasing the upcoming product of a particular brand certainly violates this law, the speakers said.
As the e-commerce website buyherenow.com.bd uses the same colour theme as B&H, which suggests that the website has direct involvement of BAT Bangladesh, they further said.
The presentation also showed concern over the marketing tactics of tobacco companies through their CSR activities.
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul said, “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared to make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation within 2040. However, the involvement of senior officials of the government with the tobacco companies is a serious concern.”
He suggested that there should be a specific law that would ban their involvement with the tobacco companies so that they can never become a member of their board of directors or join the tobacco companies after retirement.
“If we cannot stop the involvement of senior officials, we cannot make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation even in a century,” he added.
Sharker Shams Bin Sharif, communications officer at CTFK identified the advertisement as a “gross violation of the existing law” and emphasised banning BAT Bangladesh’s CSR activities and demanded amendment of the existing law.