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Thursday, January 28, 2016, Magh 15, 1422 BS, Rabius Sani 16, 1437 Hijri

S Asia Faces Common Challenges
Tobacco control vital for achieving SDGs   
Saifunnahar Sumi
Published :Thursday, 28 January, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 73

In spite of comprehensive domestic tobacco control laws, South Asian countries including Bangladesh face several common challenges that impede further progress on tobacco control and, ultimately a reduction in tobacco prevalence.
These challenges include low taxation on tobacco products, lack of sustainable funding for prevention and health care, weak implementation of laws and regulations and strong tobacco industry influence in the law-making and regulatory processes.  
In South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka), the estimated total number of tobacco users is 384 million, which accounts for over a third (34.8%) of the total tobacco users in the world (about 1.1 billion).
The economic and health costs of tobacco use in all of these countries are staggering.  In India and Bangladesh alone, tobacco kills over 1.1 million people annually, according to a conservative estimate.
Statistics of WHO said, the number of tobacco related death would be over 8.0 million within 2030 and mainly Third World countries including Bangladesh would suffer the brunt of it.
All South Asian countries are Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which is one of the most widely adopted treaties in the United Nations system.
Since 2003 a total of 180 Parties signed in the FCTC treaty that set the policy framework internationally for tobacco control and is legally binding, requiring parties to implement evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. All South Asian countries have enacted domestic laws to implement various provisions of the FCTC.
And In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expired at the end of 2015, which consist of 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030.
SDGs three -- Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well- being for all at all stages target no 3.a mentioned strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate.
Now, for the first time, the SDGs also include targets relating to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which account for 38 million deaths per year and 68 per cent of deaths globally. Tobacco is a leading cause of the most common NCDs: cardiovascular and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes.
According to WHO, annually 57,000 people die in Bangladesh and 382,000 people turn cripple, and it is estimated unofficially that the number in the present days might have increased greatly, the tobacco-related deaths are linked to the third goal of SDGs.
And tobacco is not only a barrier to achieving only SDG- three but also one- Ending Poverty, two- Hunger, four- Education, five- gender equality, eight-transformative economy, 10- inequality, 12- Consumption and production patterns, 14- Oceans, 15- Ecosystems, and 16- Peace, justice, strong institutions, experts said .
Tobacco is being grown on the enlisted land of around 108,000 hectares. Tobacco farming is highly risky for the soil and the lands growing tobacco lose the productivity to produce food crops which is a threat for the food security.
"Now FCTC implementation is not a stray incident, it's now it is connected with the mainstream development as well and its implementation to reach the SDGs is a pre-condition for a developing country like Bangladesh," Saber Hossain Chowdhury, President The Inter-Parliament Union (IPU)  told The Daily Observer.
It is mostly important for two specific reasons. Firstly: without FCTC implementation reaching the third goal of SDG - 'Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages' is impossible. Secondly: tobacco is also a hindrance to reach the other SDGs which should be removed by FCTC implementation, he added.  
The IPU and its Member Parliaments were actively involved in negotiations of the SDGs and Goal 16 is to deliver on the expectations and needs of citizens in an effective and democratic manner. One of the policy areas in which the impact of effective governance and policymaking are needed is health.
IPU in cooperation with the Bangladesh Parliament and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will organize the two-day South Asian Speaker's Summit on January 30 and 31 at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the city where Parliament Speakers and members of South Asian nations are expected to participate.
The summit will discuss importance of the SDGs for this region, parliament's role in SDGs implementation, opportunities of SDG- three, present situation of tobacco epidemic and strategy to control tobacco, networking in parliamentary level to formulate and implement techniques aim to decrease use of tobacco.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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