Health ministry asks industries ministry to order halt on tobacco production

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Dhaka, May 20: The health ministry has requested the industries ministry to order a suspension on production and marketing of tobacco products citing COVID-19 death risk amid outbreak.Joint Secretary Md Khairul Alam, the coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Cell under the Directorate General of Health Services, sent a letter to the industries ministry on Tuesday.

The letter appears to have made public a rift between the two ministries over allowing tobacco products during the respiratory illness pandemic.

The industries ministry made the situation “complex” by giving special permission to the tobacco firms to continue production, supply and marketing of their products amid the coronavirus lockdown, the letter said.

The tobacco firms were showing the permission as “an excuse to violate the lockdown rules”, it said.

It requested the ministry to withdraw the permission, noting that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a target to free Bangladesh from tobacco by 2040.

It also referenced to a World Health Organisation study to back its claim that smokers at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus infection.

Industries ministry officials were not available for comment immediately.