Raising the Age of Purchase and Use of Tobacco Product in Bangladesh: Benefits and Challenges in Protecting Youth from the Tobacco Epidemic

Document Type : Progress of Tobacco Control in South-East Asia Region (Special Issue)


1 International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), South-East Asia Office New Delhi, India.

2 Manbhum Ananda Ashram Nityananda Trust (MANT), Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

3 Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Norway.


Background: Tobacco use among young and adolescents is the biggest threat to public health globally. In Bangladesh, every one in 14 youth (13-15 years) uses tobacco in some form. While this problem is growing in the country, we estimate the underage initiation of tobacco use and present evidence that policy measures like increasing the age of purchase and use from the current 18 years to 21 years in the country backed with current tobacco control efforts and adopting vendor licensing will significantly reduce future tobacco burden. Method: We analysed the two rounds of nationally representative Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) data: GATS-1 (2009-10) and GATS-2 (2016-17) and segregated the data for two categories of tobacco consumption (smokers and smokeless tobacco users) based on the age of initiation (<18, 18-21 and >21 years). Consumption patterns were also analyaed by using the GATS-2 data. Projections from sub-national level analysis for youth initiating tobacco use before 21 years and change in the prevalence of overall underage tobacco users were calculated based on weighted value. Result: According to GATS-2, around 89% of current tobacco users initiated tobacco use into daily use before the age of 18 years in Bangladesh. Whereas, striking differences were observed (statistically significant) for the average age of initiation of smoking among smokers aged 20-34 increased from 17.4 in 2009 to 19.3 years; and 20.1 to 22 years for SLT.  Moreover, more than 24% of them initiated into regular smoking before the age of 15 years. Conclusion: There is an increasing trends of tobacco initiation among the underage youth of Bangladesh. By increasing the age of access, sale, purchase, and use of tobacco from current 18 years to 21 years will significantly reduce youth initiation and taper down the overall adult tobacco use prevalence over the long run in Bangladesh. 


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