DHAKA, March 30, 2018 (BSS) - Nine-year old Heru and another child Akash, both are skinny and gloomy, as they sell tobacco in the Jatiya Sangshad Bhaban area.
It has been nearly a year that they are in the trade. They earn around Taka 200 a day each by selling their wares for 12 hours between 10 am and 8 pm.
Akash has to spend Taka 60 everyday for his meals, while he has to spend another Taka 80 to as advance for the cigarettes.
He has no alternative but to sell cigarettes to bear his family expenses with the rest of his income.
He is compelled to engage in such risky and harmful job to bear his family expense only to eliminate hunger.
When asked why he was so lean and looked sick, Akash replied, "I've to sell cigarettes from dawn to dusk and I can't even take any rest or even shower, regularly. I have to consume cheap food of the footpaths, so, my health condition is deteriorating, gradually. I also suffer from cough severely, every night."
Asked about the reason, Akash bursts into anger and says those who buy cigarettes from him instantly put those on fire. As a result, Akash said he has to inhale harmful smoke of cigarettes and because of this, he has to suffer from cough.
"I can't go to doctor because I don't have any money. Despite this, I have to sell cigarettes to bear my expenses." It is the same sad story for all the children who sell cigarettes in public places.
The shrewd tobacco companies are targeting children of poor and uneducated families to sell cigarettes in public places, while retail cigarette sellers are doing the same. If retailers could fulfill the sales target, set by the companies, then they usually get monthly incentives from the manufacturing companies.
The tobacco companies and the retail sellers are taking most of the profit, while giving very little to the little cigarette street vendors.
In the amended version of Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (control) Act of 2013, it is strictly prohibited to sell cigarettes to anyone aged below 18 or to instigate selling cigarettes by anyone below 18.
Directives are also there in the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control framed in 2005 not to involve children in buying and selling of cigarettes or tobacco products.
As per the sub-section (1) of the concerned Act, if anyone violates the provision, then he or she would be fined maximum Taka 5,000 while the fine would continue to double if he or she repeats it again and again. But, the situation is different as every now and then the children are often seen to sell cigarettes in different streets, parks and amusement centers.
The experts expressed concern that the children who sell cigarettes pose the risk of becoming smokers in their later life. Even two to three years ago, teenagers and youths aged between 15 and 35 had started to begin smoking.
But, now due to the various strategies and publicities applied by the tobacco companies, children aged between 8 and 10 are being accustomed to smoking.
According to the sub-section 7 of section 1 of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (control) Act of 2013, no one will be able to smoke at any public place or in any public transport.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested to raise tax on tobacco and tobacco products to discourage the smokers. Since, Bangladesh has ratified the international charter on tobacco control known as Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) enforced in 2005, there is a binding on following the recommendations of that FCTC.
According to the experts, money can never get higher priority than the health of the common mass as the tobacco companies are pushing the public health, environment and the country's economy towards destruction only to realize their financial interest.
The experts said that there is a need to follow the FCTC for the sake of public health. According to a survey carried out by Global Adult Tobacco, around 43.3 percent of adult Bangladeshis intake tobacco without smoking.
Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust project coordinator Aminul Islam Sujon told this correspondent that the retail cigarette vendors alongside the agents of the tobacco companies from whom the children buy cigarettes should have to be first identified and put behind the bars if the government wants to stop involving children in cigarette buying and selling.
Convenor of the Anti Tobacco Media Alliance Ruhul Amin Rushd said guardians of children and minor teenagers aged below 18 should have to be aware about the adverse effects of the tobacco and tobacco products alongside the amended version of Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (control) Act of 2013 so that the children are not involved in the buying and selling of such harmful products.
Rushd also underscored the need for strict implementation of the aforesaid law to stop the involvement of children in buying and selling of tobacco products side by side protect the children from the adverse impacts of indirect smoking.