E-cigarettes in Bangladesh create a cloud of debate

Seemingly the unhazardous cloud with sweet fragrance an electronic cigarette consumer or vaper emits is better than the bad odor that comes from a conventional smoker.

With such a comparison, e-cigarette campaigners portray the trendy form of addiction as safer than smoking a conventional cigarette.

As the tobacco control authorities have no regulatory instrument in hand to control it, young people are getting hooked on nicotine by vaping, anti-tobacco campaigners warn.

A study titled Electronic cigarettes (vaping) preferences among university students in Bangladesh, published in September 2020, finds 31.27 per cent of respondents were familiar with e-cigarettes and had taken it at least once in their lives.

A total of 408 respondents participated in the survey. More than 60 percent of them said that they were unaware of any harmful or beneficial effects of vaping, while 35.48 percent said vaping e-cigarettes had caused them or the people around them to become addicted to nicotine.

Although the study authors did not focus on the health hazards of vaping, they provide an assessment–‘undoubtedly it gives us a terrible message that e-cigarettes have penetrated in our young generation.’

Ismail Hosen, assistant professor at the biochemistry and molecular biology department under the Dhaka University, and one of the co-authors of the study says, “Any kind of addiction to toxic substances is harmful to health.”

A debate that whether vaping is an effective method of harm-reduction (by quitting smoking) or not has surfaced world-wide. Already there is a schism over vaping and health as vapers are campaigning for ‘rights to good health’.

Schumann Zaman, president of Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Traders Association (BENDSTA), is one of the campaigners. He imported e-cigarettes first in Bangladesh in 2012.

He says that vaping is gaining popularity. “Vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking a conventional cigarette. This is proven to be an effective ‘quit smoking’ tool,” Zaman says citing a paper by Public Health England (PHE).

On 10 September a video interview of Rajib Hossain Joarder–a surgeon at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital–was posted on the Facebook page of Voice of Vapers (VOV), a social media platform for vape campaigners.

In the video, Rajib, sitting at Zaman-owned Vapor Cloud outlet in Dhaka, endorsed vaping as ‘100 per cent safe’. Rajib also cited the PHE paper. This correspondent called Rajib over his cell phone several times but received no response.

The Guardian reports that the ’95 per cent safer’ term was picked from a paper published in 2014 by a group of experts led by David Nutt–a former chief drugs adviser to the British government. Nutt was sacked as he declared Ecstasy or MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) were safer than alcohol.

Condemning social media campaign by the vapers, a local non-government organization Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment issued a press release recently.

VOICE’s executive director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud tells this correspondent that the VOV propagation, particularly using Rajib’s interview, was ‘misleading, despicable and a campaign against the prime minister’s call to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040.”

Source: en.prothomalo.com

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