Separate desk on e-cig suggested

Findings of study on tactics for novel tobacco products released

Published : 04 Apr 2023 10:15 PM

The tobacco industry applies various tactics to rapidly expand the e-cigarette market to thwart the ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh’ goal, says a study. 

Until the first few years of arrival in Bangladesh, some e-cigarette shops were found only in posh areas of Dhaka. Now, e-cigarette shops are available across the country, which highlights the increase in e-cigarette sales in recent times in the country, according to the study.  The study recommends imposing a ban on e-cigarette through national legislation. It also recommends formation of a separate desk under the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) over e-cigarette.

Ehsanul Haque, a journalist and also Ph.D researcher in Dhaka University; and Syed Saiful Alam, a researcher on tobacco control; carried out the six-month study titled ‘Bangladesh Tobacco Industry Tactics for Novel Product Expansion’ in 2022. 

The study findings were revealed at a dissemination seminar held at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on Tuesday (April 4, 2023), arranged by the Inter Press Network-IPN.  

Prof. Dr. Arup Ratan Choudhury, founder president of Association For the Prevention of Drug Abuse (MANAS); Dr. Nasir Uddin Ahmed, former chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR); Prof. Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque, project director at Bangladesh Cancer Society; Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Save the Environment Movement; Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin, an expert on public health; Prof. Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, chairman of Environmental Science department at Stamford University Bangladesh; and Helal Ahmed of Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) took part in discussion at the seminar. 

Md Golam Mowla, executive director of IPN; presided over the event, while Md. Bazlur Rahman, an associate professor at Dhaka International University (DIU); and Hamidul Islam Hillol of BNTTP; also spoke on the occasion. 

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, secretary general at Save Our Sea; Fahmida Islam, STOP Bangladesh Focal Point; Sharmin Akter Rini, program officer at Dhaka Ahsania Mission; Ibrahim Khalil, project officer at Bureau of Economic Research (BER) at Dhaka University; and Kafayet Shakil, media coordinator at Inter Press Network-IPN; also attended the event. 

In his speech, Dr. Arup Ratan Choudhury said, “Vaping has become gateway to drug addiction. Many youths who come to drug rehabilitation centers first used e-cigarettes, then became drug addicts.” 

Dr. Nasir Uddin Ahmed called upon the authorities concerned not to give approval for e-cigarette import in Bangladesh. He demanded immediate amendment to the tobacco control law. 

Prof. Dr. Golam Mohiuddin Faruque said that e-cigarette is undoubtedly dangerous to health. It contains dangerous chemicals, causing lung disease, heart disease and some other diseases. The government should ban e-cigarette in Bangladesh before it becomes an epidemic, he added. 

Syed Mahbubul Alam Tahin said that some transnational tobacco companies and some platforms backed by the companies are providing false, confusing and misleading information over e-cigarette as part of their move to thwart the ‘Tobacco-free Bangladesh’ goal. 

The study found that e-cigarette consumers are mostly youths and students. The tobacco industry mainly targets Bangladesh as youths are the largest population group in the country. 

As part of tactics, the tobacco industry uses social media to target youths who are typically active on social networking sites. 80% of vaping shops use both the online platforms and social networking sites to expand their e-cigarette businesses, while 94% of shops use social networking sites for reaching customers.

 The participants in the survey said that they also use off-line media to increase e-cigarette sales. A vaping festival was arranged for the first time in Bangladesh to encourage youths to use e-cigarettes. 

32 brands of e-cigarette products of multinational tobacco companies were found in vaping shops. In many places, e-cigarettes are being sold under direct supervision of some giant tobacco companies.  The study found that a leading tobacco company is selling e-cigarette in Bangladesh secretary. The company runs at least 39 outlets in Dhaka city from behind the scenes.

According to the study, many tobacco companies have taken trademark registration for many e-cigarette brands silently. Importing e-cigarettes through getting approval from the authorities concerned is the part of the tactics for legalization, while trademark registration is another tactic. Some giant tobacco companies have taken trademark registrations for some e-cigarette products, which have not yet come to Bangladesh. 

Tobacco companies are also taking advantage of the provision of ‘Designated Smoking Area (DSA)’ to expand the e-cigarette market and increase its users in Bangladesh. However, e-cigarette traders and tobacco companies are now working hard to thwart the government’s plan to amend the control law and the planned provision to ban the e-cigarette.