Are vapers in Bangladesh using safe products?

Why vape related illnesses in the United States are not happening in the UK and how Bangladeshi vapers can be safe

The recent incidents of illnesses related to vape in the United States created a health scare in the country and beyond its borders. However, evidence thus far seems to suggest that the incidents of illnesses are not results of vaping itself, but caused by illicit vape fluid used by the victims.

In the United Kingdom, where no similar incidents of vape related illnesses and deaths have been reported, health experts assured British vapers that they face no such danger, as e-cigarette products in the UK are carefully regulated.

“Unlike the US, all e-cigarette products in the UK are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and they operate the yellow card scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences,” said Martin Dockrell, head of Tobacco Control at Public Health England.

As an outbreak of illness in the US drew attention worldwide the US health officials began investigating more that 450 possible cases of such illnesses that are linked to vaping.

But available data from latest reports suggested that most of the cases in the US had direct link to use of illicit vaping fluid, bought on the streets or concocted by users at home. Some of these contained cannabis products such as THC, or synthetic cannabinoids, like spice.

The situation is the UK however, is quite different where regulatory control like ‘yellow card scheme’ by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency provides consumers the opportunity to report substandard products.

Users can also check on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website to see whether the product they are using have been registered and whether they are legal, ensuring that consumers only use quality tested products.

This allows for very close quality control by reliable authorities in the UK, where no illness and deaths similar to the US has been reported.

As US authorities continue to investigate the reasons for the 800 odd lung illnesses and 13 deaths in the country, experts in the UK reassured British vapers that there is no reason to worry.

“All the evidence to date suggests that illicit marijuana vaping products (THC oils) are the cause. In particular, a compound called tocopherol acetate may be the culprit,” Prof Linda Bauld, a public health expert at Edinburgh University told The Guardian newspaper.

How safe are vaping products in Bangladesh?

In Bangladesh, the risk comes from substandard products and not THC oils, as it is not available in the country, says Schumann Zaman, president of Vape Importers and Traders Association of Bangladesh (VITAB).

Bangladesh has seen a growing demand for vape products and retailers ranging from small street corner shops to e-commerce sites that are now selling various kinds of vape products to consumers across the country.

Most of these sellers, however, stock items that are of dubious origin, says Zaman. His organization, on the other hand, ensures that vendors enlisted with VITAB only sell verifyable and high quality products.

“You can tell just by the price that the products available in New Market and Chawkbazar are questionable. Some shops are even selling  models that are five or six years old, which our customers would never buy,” Zaman said.

“All of the VITAB enlisted vape shops only sell products imported from reputed manufacturers or wholesalers in the US and UK, whose products already satisfied quality standards of the health authorities in the respective countries,” said Zaman.

As of yet, VITAB only allows vendors with physical shops to be enlisted with it, as online sellers are harder to regulate. The names of enlisted shops are displayed in VITAB’s Facebook page, which has over 11 thousand members.

Despite a large online consumer base who can potentially get information from platforms like VITAB, people still purchase vape products from convenient locations without seeking manufacturer information. This leaves vapers in Bangladesh exposed to hazardous vape products.

While use of THC oil is unlikely to be a problem in Bangladesh, the counterfeit or substandard products, sold in places like Chawkbazar and New Market in Dhaka, pose potential health risk from vaping, Zaman said.

The problem is easily solved, Zaman claims, if consumers buy safe products from retailers enlisted with VITAB and similar organizations such as Bangladesh Vape Traders Association, which only import from reputed manufacturers in the US and UK.