The government of Bangladesh has secured sustainable funding for tobacco control and NCD prevention with a new policy to manage funds levied on tobacco products, equivalent to US$ 31 million per year.
Bangladesh is becoming a regional leader for progressive tobacco control policy. Because the surcharge is sustainable, it allows health experts to plan ambitiously for the future impact of tobacco control and NCD prevention programmes.
Funds from the Health Development Surcharge – a one percent levy on all tobacco products, manufactured or imported – must now pass entirely to the health ministry for development of a new national programme to reduce tobacco use, and other interventions to prevent NCDs. The Union provided technical support and training on sustainable funding during the evolution of this innovative policy, as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.
Bangladesh’s Health Development Surcharge raises around Tk 250 crore per year (US$ 31 million). Before the new management policy came into force in October 2017, this money had been passing to other government projects since the surcharge was introduced in 2015.
“This new policy is a big win for public health here. With reliable long-term funding, life-saving programmes can be scaled up and rolled out nationwide. It has the potential to be transformative,” said Syed Mahbubul Alam, The Union’s technical advisor in Bangladesh. “It will also help us hold the tobacco industry to account – its products cause ruinous harm and misery for many individuals, families and communities across this country.”
Bangladesh has one of the highest burdens of tobacco use in the world – in 2016 nearly 55 percent of adult males were smokers while 29 percent used smokeless tobacco.
The country’s new national tobacco control programme will include tobacco control law implementation, mass media campaigns on the health harms of tobacco use, and capacity-building. WHO’s MPOWER package – a series of six measures proven to reduce tobacco use – will be the programme’s foundation.