Need THR strategy to achieve tobacco-free nation by 2040: Speakers

DHAKA, May 28, 2022 (BSS) – Speakers at a discussion today urged the policymakers to incorporate tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategy in their tobacco control plans and establish safer alternatives such as vaping products as smoking cessation medium like progressive nations around the world.

To mark the World Vape Day 2022, Voice of Vapers Bangladesh organized a panel discussion titled, “The Need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategy: Achieving the Government’s Health Agenda & Revenue Ambitions” which was held at a city hotel, said a press release.

Dr Delon Human, president of Health Diplomats, a specialized health and nutrition consulting group and a harm reduction expert in food, alcohol and tobacco, said Bangladesh is widely recognized as a resilient nation, known for her prowess to prove her critics wrong.

Historically, the indomitable spirit of Bangladeshis has made them question the status quo and establish the rights of its people. The stupendous development across all sectors is a true testament of that, he said.

To make a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040, there needs to be a credible harm reduction strategy as practiced by many developed countries, suggested Dr Delon who served as an adviser on global public health strategies to three Directors-General of the WHO and to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

“The authorities must consider regulating safer alternatives such as vaping and make them accessible to smokers wanting to quit. Set quality parameters, regulate it like any other industry and promote it as a cessation tool,” he added.

Dr. Altamash Mahmood, Core Faculty Member – Public Health Nutrition at Bangladesh Open University, an avid vaper himself, reiterated how vaping is established as a cessation tool and a safer alternative to smoking.

“Cigarettes are harmful, but nicotine is not. This is because smoking involves combustion that creates tar and other toxicants. Vaping, on the other hand, only heats the liquid to create vapour to deliver nicotine. Moreover, vaping does not induce second-hand smoking,” he said.

Most nations seek public health advocacy from Public Health England and according to them, vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking cigarettes, he said..

“This is why the UK government has an independent chapter on safer alternatives in their tobacco control plan with the National Health Service of UK (NHS) prescribing vaping as efficientcessation tools. According to the Consumer Choice Center in USA, about 62 lakh smokers will take up vaping if Bangladesh regulates the industry,” he said.

With over 2 crores adult smokers in the country, this would mean about one-third of the smokers’ population will shift to vaping. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of USA has approved vaping products for the open market after seeing its merits,” he opined.

As one of the pioneers of the vaping industry in the country, Schumann Zaman, president of Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Systems Traders Association (BENDSTA) talked about how vaping can help the government achieve its health agenda along with its revenue ambitions.

He said, “We need to capitalize on this by regulating the vaping industry; ensuring that the right product brought through the right channel is made accessible. This can only be achieved if a THR strategy is adopted curated for adult smokers looking to quit, along with the enactment of sensible regulations.”

Apart from the panel discussion, a one-of-a-kind “VapeCon” was organised that brought together individuals from all over the country who are opting for a safer lifestyle. About 5000 vapers signed a petition to protect their right to vape.