BATB violating tobacco law in online advertisements

Speakers at a webinar urged the government to take immediate measures against tobacco advertisement shown in e-commerce website They also called for banning Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes of the tobacco companies.

The webinar was organised by the research and rights-based organisation VOICE on Thursday. Also the event was held in-person at the Civic Centre in the capital which was moderated by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, Executive Director of VOICE.

Eminent journalist Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Journalist and Co-convenor of ATMA Nadira Kiran, Grants Manager, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) MA Salam, Programme Manager of Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) Sharmeen Rahman spoke on the webinar entitled “Malpractices of Tobacco Companies in Bangladesh”.

In the keynote presentation, speakers mentioned a pop-up advertisement of Bension and Hedges (B&H) was shown in an e-commerce website of though Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Act No. 16 of 2013) prohibits producing or disseminating an advertisement of tobacco products through any means including electronic media and websites. Also, the website buyherenow consists of Benson and Hedges’ brand colour, which suggests that the has a direct involvement with BATB.

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. 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 their retirement. If we cannot stop the involvement of senior officials, we cannot make Bangladesh a tobacco-free nation even in a century.”

Nadira Kiran, Co-convenor of ATMA 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.”

Sharker Shams Bin Sharif, Communications Officer, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said, “BATB’s advertisements shown in the e-commerce website is a gross violation of the existing law. The tobacco companies by no way can promote or advertise their products through any platform. Also, there should be a ban on their CSR activity as well as making the amendment in the tobacco control law. If they are eager to help the people of the country they can donate in government’s fund.”

The event was attended, among others, by the representatives of CSOs, NGOs, journalists and the anti-tobacco activists.