Bangladesh’s Health Development Surcharge builds a sustainable fund for a new national tobacco control programme

The government of Bangladesh has secured sustainable funding for tobacco control and non-communicable disease prevention with a new policy to manage funds levied on tobacco products, equivalent to US$ 31 million per year.

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, as well as other interventions to prevent non-communicable diseases. The surcharge raises around Tk 250 crore per year (US$ 31 million). Before the new management policy came into force on 16 October, 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’s also a step in the right direction for holding the tobacco industry to account – its products cause ruinous harm and misery for very many individuals, families and communities across this country.”

The new national tobacco control programme will include tobacco control law implementation, mass media campaigns on the health harms of tobacco use, as well as capacity- building. The World Health Organization’s MPOWER package – a series of six measures proven to reduce tobacco use – will be the focus of the programme.

The Union has worked closely with the key drivers behind the surcharge and its new management policy: the National Tobacco Control Cell, Health Services Division, and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Union team provided technical support and a high-level training on sustainable funding for tobacco control during the evolution of these innovative policies. Civil society also played a vital strategic role – in 2015 the Working for a Better Bangladesh Trust developed a draft recommendation for use and management of the fund, and the Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance called for part of the monies to be allocated for tobacco control.

“Bangladesh is becoming a regional leader for progressive tobacco control policy – its Health Development Surcharge will now expedite this life-saving work. And because it is sustainable, it allows health experts to plan ambitiously for the future impact of programmes like tobacco control. The Union welcomes this new policy and congratulates the Ministry of Health for their leadership,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control.

Bangladesh is one of The Union’s priority countries for tobacco control, under the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. It 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. 

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