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E-cigar use reaches ‘alarming level’ in Bangladesh

Published : 07 May 2022 10:25 PM | Updated : 08 May 2022 03:20 PM

The use of e-cigarette is drastically increasing in Bangladesh, causing a serious threat to public health. 

Use of the harmful tobacco product is particularly increasing among youths. The popularity and use of the product have now reached alarming levels due to tactical propaganda by tobacco companies and loopholes in the tobacco control law.

‘The Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) Act, 2005,’ which was amended in 2013, mentions nothing about e-cigarette. 

Anti-tobacco activists, and experts on public health and tobacco control are concerned about the drastic rise of the product in the country. 

Many countries have already banned the e-cigarette to protect public health. There is a demand in Bangladesh that it is necessary to enact and implement a law or amend the existing tobacco control law, banning e-cigarettes in order to achieve a tobacco-free Bangladesh. 

Talking to the Bangladesh Post, many experts on public health and anti-tobacco activists expressed 

concerns and also raised the demand for banninf e-cigarettes. 

Among the experts and activists, are Professor Arup Ratan Choudhury, founder and President of MANAS (Association for the  Prevention of Drug Abuse); Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, technical adviser at The Union; Iqbal Masud of Dhaka Ahsania Mission; Farhana Zaman Liza of Tobacco Control and Research Cell (TCRC) at Dhaka International University (DIU); and Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, an anti-tobacco activist. They called for amending the tobacco control law to shun various loopholes. 

  Alongside the typical cigarette or pipe shape, the e-cigarette looks like pens, pen drives, toys, or cylinders.

The use of the product is widely seen on roads, campuses, street corners, youth hangouts, various markets and restaurants. 

According to experts, there are two types of Emerging Tobacco Products (vaping and e-cigarette) available in the market now - Electronic Nicotine Delivery System and Heated Tobacco Products. 

An Electronic nicotine delivery system is a type of battery-powered device that converts e-liquid or nicotine-containing liquid solutions into steam by heat. When a user pulls on the mouth piece of the device, the nicotine solution evaporates in the heat and delivers nicotine to the user. Alongside nicotine, there is a variety of chemical compounds and fragrances that are extremely addictive and harmful to the human body. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified e-cigarettes as harmful toxic products.

Meanwhile, many users of vaping or e-cigarettes are unaware of the harmful effects of the toxic chemicals released from nicotine. A youth in Dhaka told the Bangladesh Post that he ‘smokes e-cigarette as it is a bit safer than typical cigarette’. 

A survey carried out by Dhaka Ahsania Mission found that e-cigarette users don’t even know whether it contains nicotine. Many people who participated in the survey think e-cigarettes have less nicotine than traditional cigarettes. Most of them were students of Dhaka University and North South University. 

Iqbal Masud of Dhaka Ahsania Mission said that alongside the university students in Dhaka, the users of e-cigarettes are now increasing in remote areas of Bangladesh, including district and upazila levels. However, the price of harmful products is decreasing day by day.     

Professor Ratan Choudhury said that the use of e-cigarettes is very harmful to public health, especially for youths, as the e-cigarette is making them more susceptible to using drugs. 

“Although it is now banned in many countries, including neighboring India, the use of e-cigarettes is gradually increasing in our country. It must be banned in Bangladesh,” he said. 

The tobacco companies are promoting emerging tobacco products, mainly targeting youths. The popularity of e-cigarettes among teenagers and young people is increasing in the country due to the manufacturer’s so-called ‘smart approach’ introducing the use of perfumes and attractive designs. 

Farhana Zaman Liza of TCRC said that e-cigarette is a strategy of tobacco companies to expand their business. They are using an e-cigarette as a new weapon to rejuvenate the youths who want to quit smoking. As a result, the youths are not quitting smoking and they are becoming addicted to e-cigarettes. 

“Today’s youths will run the country in the future. If they become addicted to drugs, then it would be a threat to the country,” she said. 

A study carried out by the TCRC found that e-cigarette shops have been set up university-centric to attract youths. Besides, various types of e-cigarette advertisements are being advertised on YouTube, Facebook, website and other social media. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey also found that young people of Bangladesh are mostly addicted to the e-cigarette. 

“Against this backdrop, the e-cigarette must be banned in the country immediately in order to save the younger generation,” said Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, who was involved in research on the e-cigarette. 

He said that it is unfortunate that the tobacco control law mentions nothing about e-cigarettes. The government should amend the existing law and implement it strictly, he demanded. 

 According to Article 5 (1) of the ‘Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013’, the tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship and display of smoking scenes and use of any other tobacco products in all entertainment media, including Television, YouTube and cinema halls, or in any other way are prohibited. 

“…However, the tobacco companies are promoting e-cigarettes by using social networking sites and OTT platforms,” said Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, 

He also said that the existing law allows smoking in Designated Smoking Area (DSA) public places. For this reason, the use of e-cigarettes has reached an alarming level in restaurants of posh areas. 

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