Hundreds of youth leaders from the educational institutions in Chapai Nawabganj district gathered in the ‘Youth Leaders Conference, Chapai Nawabganj-2023’ to take a solemn oath to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh. The youth leaders called upon Dr. Samil Uddin Ahmed Shimul MP, representing Chapainawabganj-1 Constituency, to take proactive measures in tobacco control. The event was organized by the Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing (BPFHW) and Shastho Shurokkha Foundation at the Shibganj Government Model High School Auditorium on Monday. The conference focused on building a healthier future through tobacco prevention.
The chief guest of the program and the member of the BPFHW Dr. Samil Uddin Ahmed Shimul MP said, “Smoking and tobacco have various detrimental effects on our youth. To prevent the creation of new smokers to achieve Smart Bangladesh, it is necessary to raise awareness among the youth through school clubs. In order to fulfill the honorable Prime Minister’s commitment to making Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040 to protect public health, the youth needs to work collaboratively with all of us to make it a reality.”
Shibganj Upazila Secondary Education Officer Mr. Md. Zainal Abedin as a special guest said, “In order to empower the youth students for the future, it is essential for them to maintain good health. However, smoking and tobacco directly and indirectly harm them. It is important to remain vigilant to prevent tobacco companies from targeting the youth through advertisements and promotions at the local shops to combat smoking and tobacco use among young students.”
Executive Director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation and Vice-Chair of GAVI CSO Steering Committee Dr. Nizam Uddin Ahmed as a special guest said, “Tobacco companies relentlessly target youth with alluring campaigns, contests, and lower priced bidis/cigarettes, while the innocent, including countless women and children, suffer from the harrowing effects of secondhand smoke. Shockingly, a study reveals that 95 percent of addiction cases in Bangladesh begin with bidis/cigarettes before progressing to other intoxicants. Additionally, a staggering 90 percent of tobacco shops near educational institutions in Bangladesh are adorned with enticing advertisements. To cultivate an environment free from smoke and tobacco, it is crucial to establish 100% smoke-free educational institutions by strictly prohibiting the sale and promotion of tobacco products in their vicinity. This transformative step will ensure a brighter and healthier future for our students. ”
The program was conducted by the Director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation Professor Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam. He said, “The event aimed to raise awareness among youth about the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco and encourage their participation in making Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040, in line with the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement. A study found that 44 percent of minors (12 to 14 years old) are attracted to tobacco companies’ advertisements and become interested in smoking and consuming tobacco. It later leads to other harmful addictions.”
Project Coordinator of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation Dr. Iftekhar Muhsin presented the main theme of the program. He said, “Tobacco is a devastating poison for the human body, leading to over 8 million deaths worldwide each year. Of these, 7 million lives are claimed by direct tobacco use, while nearly 1 million suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke. In Bangladesh alone, the toll reaches a staggering 1 lakh 61 thousand lives lost. Shockingly, approximately 7 percent of minors aged between 13-15 indulge in some form of tobacco use, with around 59 percent being exposed to secondhand smoke in public spaces. Consequently, the risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer escalates. It is imperative, therefore, for adolescents to play an active role in safeguarding their own and public health by enlightening their families and friends about the perils of tobacco consumption.”
The event was presided over by Shibganj Upazila Secondary Education Officer Mr. Md. Zainal Abedin and attended by esteemed guests including the Headmaster of Shibganj Government Model High School Mr. Mohammad Saiful Malek, and senior officials and representatives from government and non-governmental organizations. The conference emphasized the need for awareness-raising and participation of all, including media representatives, to speed up the amendment process of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act.