Tobacco cultivation is grabbing an increasing acreage of cropland in Bangladesh, thanks to a lack of effective tobacco farming control policy, campaigners say.
Citing the Directorate of Agricultural Expansion (DAE) statistics, they said at a policy dialogue on Tuesday that about an additional 38,000 hectares had come under tobacco cultivation during the last financial year.
Tobacco was cultivated in about 70,000 hectares land in 2012-2013 farming season.
In the 2013-2014 farming season, it grew to 108,000 hectares.
But Bangladesh has ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aimed at tobacco control measures to reduce both demand and supply.
Sections 17 and 18 of this international treaty direct governments to help farmers to grow alternative crops and take preventive measures to protect the environment and public health from tobacco damages.
Lawmakers, researchers, activists and journalists at the policy dialogue organised by the Anti-tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) said tobacco companies lure poor farmers into cultivating tobacco.
Member of Parliament Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who is also an anti-tobacco campaigner, said tobacco farming was posing a threat to food security as well as public health.
He said it also destroyed forests, and damaged the environment and ecology.
Chowdhury stressed inducing farmers to cultivate alternative crops on land under tobacco farming and adopt a policy to gradually phase out tobacco farming.