Over 400 youth leaders from 33 educational institutions in Moulvibazar district participated in the ‘Youth Leaders Conference, Moulvibazar-2023’ to take an oath to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh. The event, organized by Bangladesh Parliamentary Forum for Health and Wellbeing (BPFHW) and Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, was held at the Zilla Parishad Auditorium in Sreemangal Upazila of Moulvibazar on Thursday.
The chief guest of the program and the member of the BPFHW,Vice-Principal Dr. Md Abdus Shahid MP said, “our Honorable Prime Minister has announced to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040 as part of her commitment to public health protection. To achieve this goal, it is essential for the youth to take an active role in preventing smoking and tobacco in their respective areas. The current generation of young people must be aware of the importance of tobacco prevention and cooperate with the government to implement the Tobacco Control Act.”
Chairman of Sreemangal Upazila Parishad Mr. Bhanu Lal Roy spoke at the event as a special guest. He emphasized the harmful effects of tobacco on the nation and called for young students to educate their families about these dangers. Mr. Roy also stressed the need to take effective action to prevent tobacco companies from advertising in local shops, which can tempt and encourage young people to use tobacco.
Executive Director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation and Vice-Chair of GAVI CSO Steering Committee Dr. Nizam Uddin Ahmed presented the main theme of the program. He highlighted that over 80 lakh people die due to tobacco-related diseases each year globally. In Bangladesh alone, 1 lakh 61 thousand people die due to the tobacco-related ilnesses. Dr. Ahmed also emphasized the harmful effects of secondhand smoking, with approximately 9 lakh deaths worldwide occurring annually due to this cause. He further pointed out that around 7% of minors between 13-15 years in Bangladesh use some form of tobacco, and 59% are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places. Dr. Ahmed stressed the critical need for strong tobacco control laws to ensure good adolescent health and protect public health to prevent non-communicable diseases.
Public health expert Mr. Ataur Rahman Masud shed light on the tobacco industry’s tactics to target youth through attractive campaigns, contests, and selling tobacco products at lower prices. He also highlighted the harmful impact of secondhand smoke on women and children. Mr. Masud went on to share a shocking statistic that about 95% of addicted people in Bangladesh started with bidis/cigarettes before turning to substance abuse. To create a smoke-free environment for students, he also emphasized the importance of making educational institutions 100% smoke-free by banning the sale and promotion of tobacco products around these areas.
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. The event highlighted how tobacco companies target children and teenagers with attractive campaigns that can lead to addiction. It 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.
The event was presided over by Moulvibazar District Education Officer Mr. Mohammad Fazlur Rahman and attended by esteemed guests including Sreemangal Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mr. Ali Rajib Mahmud Mithun, Sreemangal Thana Officer-in-Charge Md. Jahangir Hossain Sardar, Sreemangal Upazila Secondary Education Officer Mr. Dilip Kumar Bardhan, Sreemangal Upazila Awami League President Ardhendu Kumar Dev Bevul, senior officials and representatives from government and non-governmental organizations. The program was conducted by the Director of Shastho Shurokkha Foundation, Professor Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam.