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New Campaign Promotes Smoke-Free Public Places in Bangladesh

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(Dhaka, Bangladesh and New York, USA) ––Today marks the launch of a new national campaign to warn people about the harms of second-hand smoke and to promote smoke-free public spaces across Bangladesh. The campaign, called Smoke, was developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) with financial and technical support from World Lung Foundation. The campaign was launched by MOHFW today to support implementation efforts related to the passage of an amended national tobacco control law in 2013.

Smoke will air on national TV with print distribution to more than 30,000 health centers nationwide. The campaign shows the harms of second-hand smoke, explains the benefits of the new smoke-free law and the need for compliance. Additional support was provided by the Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

More than 7.38 million smokers tried to quit after seeing the earlier WLF-supported government campaign and a further 4.34 million pledged to quit in the next 12 months. The investment made by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare amounted to a total of 11.72 million potential quitters at a cost of only .001 cents per quit attempt.

“Results of the earlier campaign show the tremendous value effective campaigns provide for a relatively small investment”, said Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation. “This new campaign has the potential to both reinforce the message that tobacco is harmful and to begin informing people about the risks of secondhand smoke. This is a critical part of the government’s arsenal to make sure people comply with the law.”

The amended law in Bangladesh – The Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Bill (Amendment) 2013 – revises an original law passed in 2005. The new law has the following key provisions:

• Requires pictorial warnings of 50% of both sides of cigarette packs
• Expands the definition of public places where tobacco use is not allowed, including parks and restaurants but still allows for designated smoking areas.
• Increases penalties for violating the law
• Includes smokeless tobacco in the definition of tobacco products
• Restricts activities of the tobacco industry under the guise of corporate social responsibility.

With 43.3 percent adults smoking or chewing tobacco, Bangladesh is one of the cheapest sources of tobacco products in the world. Tobacco kills 57,000 people in Bangladesh while affecting more than 350,000 people with various ailments. Additionally, 63.0% of workers (11.5 million adults) and 45.0% of the public are exposed to tobacco smoke. Mass media campaigns are part of the WHO’s package of MPOWER strategies to reduce tobacco use and are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.