Policy decision regarding vape should be well informed, say traders

A total of 153 members of parliament in Bangladesh in an unprecedented letter to the prime minister last week asked for a ban on vape, also known as e-cigarette, products.

A trader working in vape business says this is a surprising move and appears not well informed.

“My immediate reaction was that of surprise. Why write such a letter for banning vape when biri, cigarette and other tobacco products are legal? Those are more harmful than vaping,” said Schumann Zaman, president of Vape Importers and Traders Association of Bangladesh (VITAB).

Zaman thinks the lawmakers are likely not up to date with the latest scientific findings regarding vape and were not briefed about the best practices from developed countries.

“I believe if they had complete information they would not have signed this letter. Vaping has been proven to be 95 per cent safer than cigarette smoking. The UK’s public health body conducted this research and that’s why British hospitals now have vape shops. Doctors use vaping as a quit smoking tool,” said Zaman.

The study Zaman referred to was conducted by Public Health of England, the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK. The government agency in, what it called a “landmark review” found that vaping is about 95 per cent less harmful than regular cigarette smoking. “Any decision regarding vaping must be well informed. When you consider the available evidence objectively, it becomes clear that vaping is now accepted as one of the most effective quitting tools,” said Zaman.

He also pointed to latest findings by Public Health England about quit success. In its latest evidence update report on vaping Public Health England found that using a vaping product as part of a quit attempt in local stop smoking services had some of the highest quit success rates – between 59.7 per cent and 74 per cent in 2019 and 2020.

Zaman thinks the attempt to ban vape products is misguided and takes Bangladesh away from its goal of becoming tobacco-free by 2040.
“Everyone wants to make the country tobacco-free, but no one can come up with a formula for success. Why not follow what has been already successful? Thousands of people in England quit smoking through vape.”

It is estimated that in 2017, more than 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with the aid of a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking. Data from systematic reviews since Public Health England’s 2018 report show that vaping products were significantly more effective for helping people stop smoking than nicotine replacement therapy.

Zaman says it makes little sense to blindly follow India, which has banned vape products in the country. “If you want to follow anyone you should follow the first world examples. The US has not banned vaping, nor has the European Union,” he said.

Zaman thinks that vape could actually help Bangladesh achieve its tobacco-free goal. “Right now, there is an effective method for quitting smoking. Vape has been proven to be most effective and it is 95 per cent safer. Properly regulating vaping will enable Bangladesh to have a formula for making smokers quit.”