PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) has expressed concern over the tobacco companies’ activities in expanding e-cigarette in Bangladesh.
In a statement issued on Monday (May 29), the PROGGA blamed the tobacco companies for promoting the use of vape and e-cigarettes. The anti-tobacco organisation blamed tobacco companies also for working against the government’s ongoing move to amend the tobacco control law.
ABM Zubair, executive director of PROGGA; issued the press statement. The PROGGA demanded a ban on the production, import, marketing, and sale of e-cigarette in Bangladesh.
According to the PROGGA’s statement, Voice of Vapers (VoV) and Asia Harm Reduction Alliance organised a summit and roundtable in Dhaka on May 27 aiming to promote e-cigarette and thwart the legislation move of the government. A number of grantees and representatives of the Foundation for Smoke-free World (FSFW), a front organization of multinational tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI), are behind the events. Representatives of a number of ministries and government bodies, including the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), took part in the events, says the statement.
With a view to realizing the Prime Minister’s vision of a tobacco-free Bangladesh, the health ministry is working to amend the tobacco control law where a ban on e-cigarette and vape products has been proposed.
It should be noted that the FSFW, founded in 2017 with funds provided by PMI has already caused grave concern among public health and anti-tobacco activists. FSFW mainly promotes and encourages the use and marketing of various vaping products, including e-cigarette. Following its inception, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also released a statement where it argued that any involvement or cooperation with this Foundation poses a grave conflict of interest. In a different statement, the WHO FCTC Secretariat said, ‘Parties to the WHO FCTC should note that any collaboration with this Foundation, due to its current funding arrangement that comes from a tobacco multinational, would constitute a clear breach of Article 5.3 of the Convention concerning tobacco industry interference.’
It is a matter of concern that the activity of this foundation is being noticed in Bangladesh for the past few years, said the PROGGA.
A number of countries, including India, have decided not to work with the FSFW on a government level to prevent its controversial activities. However, Bangladesh is yet to take any such measure on this issue.
As a signatory to the FCTC, Bangladesh should also not be involved with FSFW as per the suggestion of the WHO and provide necessary and clear directives in this regard.
At the same time, all Bangladeshi organizations including ACE and Enam Medical College should also refrain from involving themselves with such an entity that is against public health, said the PROGGA’s statement.
The world tobacco epidemic report 2021 of the WHO have identified vaping, e-cigarettes, and other emerging tobacco products as a "serious threat" to health. A number of 32 countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Singapore, have already banned e-cigarettes to safeguard public health. Bangladesh must follow suit by finalizing the amendment at the earliest and banning the production, import, marketing, and sale of such products, said ABM Zubair in the statement.