Bangladesh Dramatically Reduces Tobacco Use — Government Must Continue Life-Saving Progress

Statement of Vandana Shah, Director of South Asia Programs for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
August 15, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bangladesh has dramatically reduced tobacco use over the past nine years, according to a new survey released today by the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Bangladesh’s second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) found that tobacco use has declined 18.5 percent among adults – from 43.3 percent in 2009 to 35.3 percent in 2017.

This significant decline has been spurred by the government’s commitment to implementing public health measures that are proven to reduce tobacco use and save lives. Bangladesh has implemented many of the evidence-based tobacco control measures called for the by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), including placing 50 percent pictorial health warnings on tobacco products, prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, and eliminating tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship across most media.

Key highlights from the new survey include:

  • Tobacco use among adult men has dropped significantly – from 58 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2017.
  • Current tobacco users thinking about quitting due to health warnings on tobacco packaging increased significantly across products including cigarettes (17.6 percent increase), bidis (85 percent increase) and smokeless tobacco (608.6 percent increase).
  • Adults noticing cigarette advertising, promotion or sponsorship declined nearly 19 percent – from 48.7 percent in 2009 to 39.6 percent in 2017.

While these results highlight the incredible progress Bangladesh has made, more must be done to protect all Bangladeshis from the deadly toll of tobacco use. Secondhand smoke exposure remains high in restaurants (49.7 percent), public transportation (44 percent) and indoor workplaces (42.7 percent), exposing youth and nonsmokers to deadly toxins. No safe level of secondhand smoke exposure exists. Smokeless tobacco rates remain very high especially among women. Restrictions on tobacco advertising must also be strengthened, especially for bidis and smokeless tobacco, and the price of tobacco should be increased by raising taxes on all tobacco products.

The dramatic decline in Bangladesh’s tobacco use is a tremendous testament to the government’s commitment to ending the tobacco epidemic. We urge the government to continue these efforts until all Bangladeshis are protected from the deadly toll of tobacco. Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives worldwide this century.