Speakers stress need for tobacco harm reduction strategy

They call for sensible regulations for vaping products to achieve government’s health agenda and revenue ambitions

Speakers at an event urged 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 commemorate World Vape Day 2022, Voice of Vapers Bangladesh organised a panel discussion titled “The Need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategy: Achieving the Government’s Health Agenda & Revenue Ambitions” held at a Dhaka hotel on 28 May, reads a press release.

Dr Delon Human, president of Health Diplomats and an expert on harm reduction said, “Bangladesh is widely recognised 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.”

“I believe the honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina envisions a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040. But to achieve this, there needs to be a credible harm reduction strategy as practiced by many developed countries. 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 Delon has served as an adviser on global public health strategies to three directors-general of the WHO and to former UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon. He is a former secretary general of the World Medical Association (WMA).

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 create 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 added.

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

“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 efficient cessation tools. According to the Consumer Choice Center in USA, about 62 lakh smokers will take up vaping if Bangladesh regulates the industry,” Dr Altamash said,

He went on to say that 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 added.

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 capitalise 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.

The event was powered by BENDSTA.

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