The health ministry has again prepared a draft to bring an amendment to the Smoking and Using of Tobacco Products (Control) Act, banning e-cigarettes – known as vapes – and oral nicotine pouches.
It includes a provision of a maximum fine of Tk5,000 for using e-cigarettes.
In addition, the draft proposes to prohibit the production, import, export, storage, sale and transportation of e-cigarettes or their parts.
Violation of this provision is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of six months or a fine not exceeding Tk2 lakh or both for the first time. The punishment will continue to double each time the offence is repeated.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently sent copies of the draft – prepared to amend the Smoking and Tobacco Use (Control) Act, which was enacted in 2005 and amended in 2013 – to different stakeholders including the ministries concerned. The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has sought opinions on the draft by 14 July.
The existing law does not say anything about e-cigarettes but anti-tobacco campaigners have been calling for a ban on vapes.
Informally, e-cigarettes had started arriving in Bangladesh from different countries a few years ago and quickly became popular among the youth.
In addition, United Japan Tobacco Limited is also reportedly preparing to market e-cigarettes in Bangladesh.
Under the new law, no sweets, spices, perfumes, addictive products or any other mixture can be added to tobacco and tobacco products. Anyone violating this provision will for the first time be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of six months or a fine up to Tk2 lakh or both. The punishment will continue to double for each repeat of the offence.
The draft also proposes prohibiting the sale of tobacco and tobacco products by mobile shops and hawkers.
In addition, provisions are being incorporated to ban the sale of tobacco and tobacco products within 100 metres of the boundaries of educational institutions, hospitals, clinics, playgrounds and children's parks.
Anyone violating these provisions will be fined a maximum of Tk5,000 for the first time and the punishment will continue to double for each repeat of the offence, it added.
The draft states that to sell tobacco and tobacco products, vendors must obtain a licence from a local government body. Anyone who sells tobacco products without such a licence will be fined a maximum of Tk50,000 for the first offence and the punishment will continue to double for each repeat of the offence.
In addition, it has been proposed to print health warnings in Bengali with colour pictures and text relating to the damage caused by the use of tobacco products on 90% of the packaging, cartons and containers of all types of tobacco products.
Although the existing law provides for the printing of health warnings in Bengali with colour pictures and text on the top 50% of the packets of bidi and e-cigarettes and the boxes of jorda, chewing tobacco, it is currently being printed in the lower half.
ABM Jubayer, executive director of Progga, an anti-tobacco organisation, has termed the draft amendment "time befitting".
"If it is passed and implemented effectively in the shortest possible time, it will be possible to build a tobacco-free Bangladesh by 2040 as announced by the prime minister," he told The Business Standard.
ABM Jubayer said although the tobacco control law was amended in 2013, in reality, there are many shortcomings in it. Now the amendment that has been drafted is logical in terms of reality.