Published:  03:15 AM, 20 May 2017

Tobacco cultivation must be discouraged

Tobacco cultivation must be discouraged

According to a report of WHO (World Health Organization) one person dies in every 10 seconds due to only smoking related diseases in the world. As per sources, over 1 billion people in the world (15 percent of world population) were addicted to smoking in 2014. Among them, 80 percent were adult male. Bangladesh reveals a disappointing scenario of tobacco use. It is one of the largest tobacco consuming countries in the world with over 41.3 million adults (26 percent of the total population) consuming tobacco products. Among 182 countries of the world Montenegro demonstrates the highest smoking rate (measured by smoking of cigarettes per adult per year) and Guniea has the lowest rate. In descending order of smoking rate Bangladesh occupies the 82nd position but displaying smoking rate the highest among the SAARC countries. Besides, on an average a Bangladeshi adult starts smoking much earlier than an Indian.

There is hardly any historical record which could correctly locate the hub wherefrom this expensive and hazardous habit spread its roots throughout the world. But there is historical evidence to support that France (1556) is the 1st tobacco user in Europe followed by Portugal (1558). However, encouragingly enough, anti tobacco campaigners in Bangladesh demanded to levy high tax rate to cut tobacco use in the country. A WHO expert recently passed opinion that if tax is properly imposed on tobacco products, revenue collection will go up and tobacco consumption will go down. But current data as well as research studies reveal that it is difficult to quit smoking once one become addicted to the bad habit. Consequently smoking habit in general never surrenders to higher cost in the wake of imposition of additional taxes.

Despite the fact that in our country the percentage of tobacco addicts among the adult male already reached the stunning height even after continuous anti-tobacco campaigns and chanting of slogans. And despite the fact that government is attaching importance and emphasis to 'grow more food' campaign to offset the food deficit currently prevailing in the country, sarcastically, the cultivation of life killing tobacco spread like an epidemic to many areas of the country. The areas brought under tobacco cultivation are the arable lands lying mostly in the northern and the south eastern part of the country.

According to a recent survey by the Agricultural Directorate, tobacco cultivation increased at least by 20 percent this year when compared to that in the previous year. Land brought under tobacco cultivation increased to 86,000 hectares from 63,000 hectares in the previous year.

In almost every country of the world there is tobacco control act restricting smoking in closed public places and outlawing the advertisement of tobacco. Among all the countries the instances of Bhutan and China are worth mentioning. In Bhutan a resolution was passed in December 2004 imposing prohibition upon cultivation, sale and harvesting of tobacco. However, import of limited amount of tobacco would be permitted upon paying heavy taxes. In addition, smoking is absolutely illegal in all public places. Bhutan is the first nation in the world to impose largest restriction on this practice of smoking .China is another excellent instance for the world to be followed.

Like other countries China also strictly banned smoking in public places. But unlike other countries, for the breach of law, the smoker will be fined 200 yuan ($32) and in addition will be 'named and shamed' in the government website. The new law also cracks down on advertising. In New York city, according to a current survey, 81 percent of the respondents agreed not to hire a smoker to care for the children which proves the fact that smoking has no social recognition, although in USA an average smoker spends $2200 per year.

To speak the truth, smoking is injurious to health not only of the smokers but non smokers are also exposed to the suffocating offensive smoke discharged by the smokers. The demerits of smoking are multifaceted. Money is misused. Good health is exchanged for diseased health. Compared with the average smokers non smokers live longer. Smoking harms happy conjugal life in many of the cases. There are many instances of accidents of burning caused by smoking alone. As smoking has no social recognition, many non-smoking employers feel reluctant to recruit a smoker even though he is eligible for the post.

In spite of all the related evils inevitably spread by smoking, we have to live in a society seemingly permissive of smoking anywhere and everywhere, in public places or at home, in front of anybody and everybody and even during the holy month of Ramadan at broad day light in public places. I can hardly resist my mind from narrating a sad intolerable event that occurred in the Mouchak market in the capital about five years ago during the holy month of Ramadan. While shopping at around 11am, much to my utter shock and surprise, I saw a devil in the guise of a well-dressed gentleman standing beside me and smoking in a dam care and sarcastic fashion. Unfortunately, I found none among the buyers standing around me, not even the seller, who was sitting at his desk, to vehemently protest and prevent it. The seller intentionally overlooked it and laid greater importance on his quick sales being totally overtaken by the financial profligacy of earning quick profits. Mute with agony, I left the shop instantly casting my hatred and purchased nothing from that shop.

I feel constrained to remark that only strict application of the law with irrevocable capital punishment can act as a positive counterblast, as an unfailing cure to such devilry and excesses. What will happen if we go one step ahead of what China and Bhutan could do? With an honest and noble intention to gift the quitters of smoking a new lease of life with better health and longevity, the man killing tobacco may be relegated from the golden land of Bangladesh. As such strict prohibition may be imposed upon cultivation, harvesting, import, sale and consumption of tobacco. To conclude, smoking begets extravagance which is absolutely forbidden in Islam. The writer is a former General Manager, Credit Information Bureau, Bangladesh Bank

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