In a recent video published on VoV Bangladesh, a Facebook page, run by the Bangladesh Electronic Nicotine Delivery System Traders Association (Bendsta), Dr Rajib Joarder, who claimed to be a doctor in the Surgery department of Dhaka Medical College, has encouraged people to vape.
Such a campaign from an official of the Health Ministry is shocking given its previous declaration that it was considering a possible ban on the production, import and marketing of e-cigarettes, vaping, and other emerging tobacco products (ETPs), according to a media statement issued by Progga, an anti-tobacco organisation.
In the video uploaded on 10 December last year, Joarder was seen discussing how he started vaping, further claiming that the vaping industry is booming, the media statement read.
Contradicting several statements from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other widely accepted research, Joarder claimed that vaping is 100 percent safe.
While discussing vaping and the explosion of the vaping industry, he also said, "Those who are speaking against us are lacking in logic."
Though Joarder acknowledged in the video that vaping is an addiction, he indicated it may be a good addiction. He also announced that there are plans to invite the world's "high-end vape gear collectors" to Bangladesh after the Covid-19 pandemic.
What Progga says
Such aggressive endorsement of vaping from a general physician and most importantly, from a government official, is extremely concerning and it raises questions about the health ministry's integrity regarding their commitment to tobacco control.
The video also raises questions about a conflict of interest. Joarder's liaison with Bendsta and the vaping industry needs to be further investigated.
VoV Bangladesh is a Facebook page that has been targeting youths, spreading disinformation in a bid to entice them to start vaping. The page has even gone as far as to claim that vaping could prevent cancer.
Dr Joarder's claim that vaping is 100% safe is also far removed from reality as the World Health Organization (WHO) has periodically made it clear that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) pose a threat to public health.
A 2020 study published in Nature on South Korean male ENDS users has revealed that rather than resulting in a cessation of smoking, ENDS lead to dual use (both ENDS and conventional cigarettes).
In this regard, Progga wants to draw the attention of the health ministry and urges it to impose a ban on the sale and import of vaping, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products by amending existing tobacco control laws.