BENDSTA calls for scrapping vape ban from draft Tobacco Control Amendment bill

Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Traders Association (BENDSTA), in a press conference, voiced their opposition to the newly proposed amendments in the draft tobacco control amendment bill.

According to the association, the ban on vaping products will work against the Prime Minister’s vision of creating a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040.

The organization put three-point demands to the health ministry, including recognizing vaping as a “quitting tool” and separating it from tobacco products like cigarettes.

BENDSTA organized the press conference on Monday in Dhaka to provide its opinion on the proposed vaping-related clauses in the Smoking and Usage of Tobacco Products (Control) Act.

The draft amendments include a new ban on e-cigarettes or vapes, under which production, import, export, storage, sale and transportation of e-cigarettes or their parts will be prohibited.

BENDSTA president Masud UZ Zaman said banning vaping products will harm Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a tobacco-free country by 2040. He said the proposal to ban vaping is a move that will take Bangladesh backwards and shows that the policymakers are not considering multiple credible evidence for vaping’s effectiveness in reducing cigarette smoking.

“Research by UK Health Security Agency (Public Health England) found that vaping is 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking. It is surprising how policymakers can ignore such an important finding,” Zaman said.

He praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s goal of making the country tobacco-free, saying his organization’s goal is aligned with the Prime Minister’s vision as it promotes vaping as a cigarette smoking quitting tool.

“We believe vaping can help reduce smoking in Bangladesh. It should be regulated under specific guidelines so that it can play an important role in realizing the Prime Minister’s vision. Governments of developed countries like the UK, EU countries, New Zealand and Canada, have recognized vaping as an effective tool for quitting smoking and their respective laws have made provisions of vaping instead of banning the product and they are enjoying huge success as a result. It called the government to make a separate category for vaping like the above-mentioned countries. He said, “even the FDA in the US has recently approved the marketing of vaping products,” Zaman said. He mentioned that Bangladesh has done a tremendous job in reducing number of cigarette smokers from 45% of total population in 2010 to 34% in 2022. He praised the government’s effort in reducing smoking but said, banning vaping products, which is seen as a smoking quitting tool in many developed countries, will put all these efforts in vain.

Zaman also cited a report by the US-based Consumer Choice Center, which projected that, a staggering 6.2 million Bangladeshi smokers can potentially quit cigarette smoking if vaping is regulated and prescribed as a quit smoking tool. He added that almost 4,000 vapers have signed a petition recently asking the government to recognize vaping as a smoking quitting tool.

“We are aware of the harm of tobacco usage, and we also support controlling it. But including vape in the same category as cigarette smoking has surprised us. Tobacco use/cigarette smoking has no similarities with vaping, they are totally different,” he said.

BENDSTA proposed creating a separate category for products like nicotine replacement therapy and vaping.

BENDSTA wants the health ministry to remove the ban on vaping products or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) from the draft amendment, as part of its three demands.

The other two demands call for the ministry to have discussions with BENDSTA members before taking any decision related to vaping, and to create separate categories for vape product which is totally different from traditional tobacco products like cigarettes.