In Bangladesh, it is mainly the adolescent and the youth in urban areas who are using e-cigarettes. Hence, there is the risk of rapid rise in e-cigarette use in the country due to misconceptions and strategic marketing by tobacco companies. Bangladesh is already among the top ten countries in terms of prevalence of tobacco users. Given this context, proliferation of a new tobacco product such as e-cigarette is a matter of grave concern. Therefore, the existing tobacco control law must be amended to ban e-cigarettes in Bangladesh.
Nationally acclaimed doctors, civil society leaders, and anti-tobacco activists opined so today Monday (20 November) at a webinar titled ‘Dangers of E-cigarette and Health Risks to the Future Generation’ organized by non-government think tank Unnayan Shamannay.
Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University and former Governor of Bangladesh Bank- Dr. Atiur Rahman chaired the session, whereas personal physician to the honorable Prime Minister- Dr. ABM Abdullah graced the event as the Guest of Honor. Departmental head of National Heart Foundation’s epidemiology and research department- Dr. Sohel Reza Chowdhury, General Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan (BAPA)- Alamgir Kabir, and national award-winning actor- Chanchal Chowdhury were present as panel discussants.
The online discussion started with screening of a short documentary film by Unnayan Shamannay which presented the effects of e-cigarettes containing nicotine and other chemicals. It specially emphasized on negative impacts of e-cigarettes on younger citizens. Dr. Atiur Rahman, in his introductory remarks, pointed out that e-cigarettes are currently being informally marketed in Bangladesh, but this has the potential to become a major threat to public health in the country. He further added that imposition of supplementary duty on e-cigarettes in the budget of FY2023-24 for the first time may have created scope of formally importing e-cigarettes into the country. BAPA General Secretary- Mr. Kabir inferred that tobacco companies, as usual, are most likely to disregard the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and prioritize making quick profit through marketing e-cigarettes. “Schools should have dedicated awareness raising campaigns to sensitize students about negative impacts of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products”- said nationally acclaimed actor Chanchal Chowdhry. Dr. Sohel Reza Chowdhury informed that tobacco companies, in many countries, have popularized e-cigarettes through selling it as a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes. In this manner they have caused serios damages in those countries. To avoid such situations in Bangladesh, the country needs to ban e-cigarettes as soon as possible, he urged.
Dr. ABM Abdullah, in his remarks as the Guest of Honor, pointed out that a significant share of Bangladesh’s tobacco users are the young citizens. Therefore, they are most likely to be attracted to e-cigarettes as a new product. Consequently, their likelihood of getting non-communicable diseases due to nicotine and other chemicals used in e-cigarettes may also increase by a significant margin. Participants at the webinar expressed their hope that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government will speed up banning e-cigarettes through amending the existing tobacco control law. It should be noted that 23 countries across the world including India and Sri Lanka have already banned e-cigarettes.