Discussion on E-Cigarettes: Health Hazard, Challenges, and Way Forward held

The use of e-cigarette continues to rise at a fast pace in Bangladesh. It is taking the Bangladesh market by storm as many youths are being addicted to the harmful novel tobacco product following tobacco companies’ various tactics. Against this backdrop, the e-cigarette has become a serious threat to public health as tin, nickel, cadmium, lead and other toxic chemicals exist in vaping products. As a result, the risk of cancer, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke and different other diseases is increasing in the country.

Anti-tobacco activists, researchers on tobacco control and experts on public health think that the e-cigarette is becoming an apocalypse for the youth and adolescent groups in the country in absence of proper legislation and lack of proper monitoring by the authorities concerned.

They made their observation at a discussion titled “E-Cigarettes: Health Hazard, Challenges, and Way Forward” held at Platinum Grand Hotel at Banani in the capital on Saturday (June 24, 2023).

Tobacco Control & Research Cell (TCRC) of Dhaka International University (DIU), Inter Press Network-IPN and Initiative for Public Health Research & Communication (IPHRC) jointly arranged the discussion.

Presenting keynote speech at the event, Farhana Zaman Liza, project manager of TCRC; said that the e-cigarette use is increasing rapidly in Bangladesh due to propaganda and tactful role of tobacco companies. A holistic approach is needed to rein in the e-cigarette market in the country before it becomes an apocalypse. Another amendment to the tobacco control law is a must to ban it, she added.

The tobacco control research opined that action can be taken against e-cigarette as well as the e-cigarette can be banned in Bangladesh through applying the existing laws, including the Drug (control) Ordinance, 1982.

The speakers of the events supported her views and demand, saying that it is necessary to hold the rein of e-cigarette in the country to save the young generation. They called for imposing an urgent ban on e-cigarette through executive order.

Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, MP, president of TCRC; presided over the discussion, while Professor Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, president of Bangladesh Cancer Society; Dr. Rumana Huque, an expert on tobacco tax and a professor at Department of Economics of Dhaka University; and Professor Dr. Md. Anowar Hussain, dean at Faculty of Public Health at Bangladesh University of Health Science (BUHS); spoke on the occasion.

Md. Bazlur Rahman, an associate professor of DIU and member secretary of TCRC; delivered the welcome speech, while Sushanta Sinha, special correspondent at Ekattor TV and executive director of IPHRC; and Ehsanul Haque Jasim, a Ph.D researcher at Dhaka University and executive director of IPN; took part in the discussion as panel discussants.

Palash Chandra Banik, an assistant professor at Department of NCD of Bangladesh University of Health Sciences (BUHS); Kafayet Ullah Chowdhury Shakil, director of IPN; and Kamrunnisa Munna, policy analyst at Center for Law and Policy Affairs-CLPA Trust also attended the event.

In his presidential speech, Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, MP, said that a total of 153 MPs wrote to Prime Minister, seeking a ban on production, importation, use, sale and marketing of e-cigarette in Bangladesh. He called upon the government to ban the e-cigarette through an executive order. “Amendment to a law and enactment of a law is a long-term process. However, e-cigarette is expanding in the country rapidly. In such a situation, the e-cigarette must be banned on urgent basis,” he said.

Professor Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque said that the e-cigarette consumers are mostly youths and students. The tobacco industry mainly targets Bangladesh as youths are the largest population group in the country. He said that tobacco companies patronize vaping festival with the ill motive to increase the number of vapers in Bangladesh. He called upon the anti-tobacco activists to arrange festival or fair for non-smokers.

In her speech, Professor Dr. Rumana Huque said that the tobacco companies use the term ‘harm reduction’ to confuse people over e-cigarette issue. They apply such tactics to attract the young generation and smokers and non-smokers to e-cigarette. Alongside the health hazards, the e-cigarette also brings economic losses, she added.

Professor Dr. Md. Anowar Hussain said that e-cigarette has become a serious threat to public health. The risk of various diseases, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, is increasing terribly due to e-cigarette. He also said that the e-cigarette market is expanding silently in Bangladesh, but research on the issue is very less. He called for increasing research on the e-cigarette issue. He also strongly demanded the ban on e-cigarette.

Md Bazlur Rahman said that tobacco companies are rapidly expanding the e-cigarette market in the country in a bid to thwart the goal of building a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040. Dhaka International University will continue its efforts against e-cigarette. He said that the e-cigarette must be banned in the country immediately for the interest of public health.

In his speech, Ehsanul Haque Jasim said that until the first few years of arrival in Bangladesh in 2012, some e-cigarette shops were found only in posh areas of Dhaka. Now, e-cigarette shops are available across the country.

Sushanta Sinha said that many smokers are now using e-cigarette and conventional cigarette simultaneously due to tactical role of tobacco companies. He said that e-cigarette traders and tobacco companies are now working hard to thwart the government’s plan to amend the control law and the planned provision to ban the e-cigarette.

In her presentation, Farhana Zaman Liza said the e-cigarette use is increasing and becoming popular among the youth in Bangladesh due to various tactics and promotional activities by the tobacco companies. Alongside social media, tobacco companies even carry out promotional activities of e-cigarette in drama, movie, web-series and OTT platforms. They use popular actors and actresses to gain their purpose.