Vaping: Experts stress on framing policy based on facts

Published : 30 Jan 2020 09:21 PM | Updated : 06 Sep 2020 11:59 PM

Vaping, has become one of the most popular alternatives to tobacco cigarettes. Owing to scientific research showing vaping to be a significantly less harmful - at least 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking - smokers in the UK and around the world are taking up vaping as a tool for quitting cancer causing cigarette smoking.

Bangladesh, battling a mass scale tobacco-related health crisis with over one lakh deaths every year, is planning to ban vape products in the country. Among the reasons for this potential ban is the illnesses and deaths linked to vaping in the United States. US authorities, however, attributed the deaths and illnesses to the usage of THC oil and illicit, unsafe vaping products bought off the streets.

In October last year America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US government body responsible for protecting and promoting public health, explicitly said that the illnesses are not linked to regular vaping, but linked to use of illicit fluid and off the street products.

The Bangladesh government has thus far not looked into the highly successful example of the UK, where vaping has been incorporated officially by the government into quit cigarettes smoking programs, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people successfully quitting cancer causing combustible tobacco cigarettes through the use of vape, as reported in mainstream media.

Researchers of a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health have also found that vaping significantly reduces cravings and many smokers, even the ones with no intention of quitting, successfully reduce tobacco habit. This is rapidly making vaping a part of de-addiction programs for quitting cigarette smoking.

30 countries have so far banned vape products. In contrast, there are 45 countries that made vaping explicitly legal, among which are developed countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and the US itself.
Bangladesh’s decision to follow the former countries for its policy decisions on vape will raise question as to why it is not following the latter ones.

A vaping advocate and physician Dr Rajib Hossain Joarder says that such a decision needs strong justification and scientific backing. “The vape-panic is a result of misinformation. Bangladesh needs to be very careful and not jump to conclusions,” said Dr Joarder, who is Assistant Registrar at the Department of Surgery at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

“We have over 21.9 million cigarette smokers in the country. Bangladeshi policymakers must take into account the benefits of vaping as a quitting tool. It is not for the underage, and it is not to be recommended to people who do not smoke. It is a harm reduction tool which people can use as an aid to quit the significantly more harmful cigarette smoking.

It will be absurd to simply ignore these established facts when making a policy,” he said.