Published : Wednesday, 27 September, 2023 at 12:00 AM Count : 444
The whole world is in the midst of a relentless battle against a tobacco epidemic that continues to claim countless lives each year. While some nations are turning to science-based solutions, prioritizing harm reduction, and embracing safer alternatives, Bangladesh appears to be charting a divergent path.
In countries like the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Japan, forward-thinking policies are emerging to address the tobacco crisis. These nations recognize that science should guide their approach, focusing on harm reduction and promoting the use of safer alternatives to traditional tobacco products.
Even Indonesia- believed to have the highest smoking rate in the world among adult males (67%)- has recently changed their stance on battling tobacco by legalizing safer alternatives.
According to a report by Indonesian media VIVA on August 31st, the Indonesian Parliament (DPR) recently passed the "Health Law No. 17 of 2023". This law is seen as providing legal certainty for the e-cigarette industry, as it categorizes e-cigarettes as addictive substances.
The Chairman of the Indonesian Electronic Nicotine Industry Alliance (APPNINDO), Teguh Basuki A Wibowo, has expressed that including e-cigarettes as a part of the legal framework for solid and liquid tobacco products not only legalizes participants in the industry but also helps Indonesian smokers find alternatives.
However, Bangladesh's stance on this issue has been quite the opposite. Since 2019, the Bangladeshi government has been contemplating a blanket ban on vaping devices. This decision stemmed from concerns triggered by the U.S. e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury outbreak, which was later attributed to adulterated illicit products.
While the intention behind the proposed ban on safer alternatives may be to protect public health, it is essential to consider the potential consequences of such a draconian measure. The prohibition of vaping devices could have catastrophic implications for those who are attempting to quit smoking, especially in a country where the availability of cessation tools, or other safer alternatives, remains limited.
For individuals trying to break free from the clutches of traditional cigarettes, vaping has offered a glimmer of hope. It has proven to be an effective method for many to transition away from smoking while minimizing exposure to the harmful toxins found in combustible tobacco. A ban on safer alternatives available in the market would essentially slam the door shut on this lifeline.
Moreover, the proposed ban represents a missed opportunity for harm reduction-a concept that has been gaining traction in the global battle against tobacco-related diseases. Harm reduction recognizes that, for some individuals, quitting tobacco altogether may not be an immediate or feasible goal. In such cases, it seeks to reduce the harm associated with tobacco use by offering safer alternatives.
By outlawing safer alternatives, Bangladesh would be taking a step backward in the pursuit of public health. It would forego the potential benefits of harm reduction strategies, denying its citizens access to tools that have shown promise in reducing the harm caused by smoking.
In conclusion, as the rest of the world acknowledges the need for science-based solutions, Bangladesh stands at a crossroads. Banning safer alternatives may seem like a well-intentioned move, but it threatens to have disastrous consequences for those striving to quit smoking. It also squanders a chance to embrace harm reduction and make progress in the ongoing battle against the global tobacco epidemic.
The world is watching, and it is our hope that Bangladesh reevaluates its approach, considering the potential setbacks for public health and the missed opportunity for harm reduction.
The writer is Doctoral Student, Hiroshima University, Japan