Bangladesh’s goal of becoming tobacco-free by 2040 will be hindered if vapes are banned, said harm reduction advocates yesterday at a webinar titled ‘Save Vaping, Save Bangladesh’. Organized by the Bangladesh-based Voices of Vapers, the webinar addressed the recent proposal to ban vape and other alternative and heat-not-burn tobacco products in a new amendment to the country’s tobacco control legislation.

The event hosted local and international speakers working in the field of harm reduction and people involved in the vape-product trade.

Dr. Delon Human, President of Health Diplomats and an expert on harm reduction said that there is no evidence for the statement that nicotine in vapes is more harmful than in cigarettes, as claimed by National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC).

Research by the UK Health Security Agency (formerly known as Public Health England) has reiterated that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Studies by the Royal College of Physicians, European Addiction Research and US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine have all concluded that vaping is safer than smoking, Dr Human said.

“I believe the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh H E Sheikh Hasina envisions a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040. But to achieve this, there needs to be a credible harm reduction strategy as practised 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.

Schumann Zaman, president of Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Traders Association (BENDSTA) said that not recognising vape traders and vape users as stakeholders will have major consequences as many of these vapers are using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

“We would humbly request the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to reconsider its vape ban and include all the stakeholders from the vaping community when drafting legislations regarding vapes in the future,” said Zaman.

John Dunne, Director General of UK Vaping Industry Association said that vapes should be regulated separately because vapes and cigarettes are different products.

“In fact, vapes are far safer and a proven method of NRT (nicotine replacement therapy). Regulating vapes will help smokers who are trying to quit have access to vapes.

He said that countries such as the UK, France, New Zealand and Canada have successfully lowered smoking rates by using vaping as NRT. “Banning vapes will lower the number of smokers trying to quit,” said Dunne.

Michael Landl, Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance said that evidence shows that blocking access to vaping drives former smokers back to cigarette smoking. Bangladesh should incorporate a tobacco harm reduction framework with separate independent chapters to regulate reduced-risk products, risk-proportionate regulations and taxation for safer alternatives, and review science from credible institutions and adopt best practices from countries with success stories.

Dr. Mithun Alamgir, Head of the Department of Community Medicine at Enam Medical College, “The tobacco epidemic will get worse without the help of smoking cessation tools such as vapes. Bangladesh’s goal of becoming tobacco-free by 2040 will be hindered if vapes are banned.”