Big Tobacco apply ill tactics and heavily incentivize to encourage the display; findings were shared in journalist workshop

[Dhaka, 30 December 2021] Tobacco companies enticing and inducing restaurant owners to establish Designated Smoking Area (DSA) and display advertisements for tobacco products. Also, Taking advantage of loopholes in the Smoking and Usage of Tobacco Products (Control) Act (2005), tobacco companies resort to ill tactics to display and promote their products at points of sale. The findings shared in a journalist workshop program held today on 30th December at Hotel La Vinci, Dhaka. A total of 30 journalist were present form different media house attended this event.

Former secretary of Dhaka Reporters Unity Jamal Uddin, Business & Economic Editor, Daily Ittefaq; Mostafizur Rahman, lead policy adviser of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK); Md. Ataur Rahman (Masud), Senior Policy Advisor, CTFK; Md. Abdus Salam Miah, Grants Manage, CTFK attended as facilitator. Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE moderate this event.

The keynote presentation by Zayed Siddiki, project coordinator of VOICE stated that the tobacco companies are encouraging tobacco sales by leveraging various marketing and advertising tactics. In one hand they pressurize vendors and on other way they incentivize the vendors and allure to display the tobacco products at POS. They give attractive gifts, like essential home appliances, beds, almirah, bicycles, pressure cookers, rice cookers, blenders, and luxury items like gold coins, LED TV, air conditioner, refrigerator, and gift vouchers based on their sales performance. Tobacco Companies also offer “Best Seller” awards each year for top performers. Both British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) also offer experiential incentives— such as celebratory dinners and free trips at home and abroad for dealers, wholesalers, and vendors.

Also, Tobacco companies allure the restaurants’ owners to establish designated smoking area and display tobacco advertising/branded materials. British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) provide “colorful decorated box with lighting” (containing empty packets of cigarettes) to display in restaurants (73% in designated smoking area, 27% at entrance/exit and near food service tables). Tobacco companies offer one-time cash benefits to restaurant owners (Average 8.1 lac taka, maximum 15 lakh Taka and minimum 4 lakh Taka) to display and maintain the advertising. Tobacco company representatives regularly visit (40% weekly, 33.3% in two weeks) the restaurants to monitor the product display. They also offer gifts (staff uniform, cookeries, discounted tobacco products, ash tray, lighter etc.) to the restaurants.

To ensure Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision for tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040; the studies recommended that, existing Tobacco Control Act should be strengthened by amending the provisions to include comprehensive ban on product display at POS. And also remove the provisions for designated smoking areas from all types of restaurants and other public places in order to protect public health.

In the workshop 30 journalists exercised news possibilities from the research findings and presented possible media stories on Tobacco companies’ interference. They also given commitment for further reporting and wide media visibility to expose TI ill tactics and need for Tobacco Control law amendment for policy attention and greater public health interest.