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Promoting E-cigarettes in the Name of Study on Smoking Alternatives

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With funds from multinational tobacco companies, a vested quarter is promoting e-cigarettes and vaping products in the name of research on smoking alternatives. Association for Community Empowerment (ACE) Bangladesh, UK-based Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR), and Enam Medical College are promoting a so-called research protocol on tobacco harm reduction among Bangladeshi diabetic patients, a study being financed by Foundation for Smoke-free World (FSFW), a Philip Morris International (PMI) sponsored front organization. These organizations have conducted such campaigns before. With patronage from the tobacco industry, such a clever campaign has been launched at a time when the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has taken the initiative to amend the tobacco control law which, if passed, will ban e-cigarettes and vaping altogether.

It should be noted that Foundation for Smoke-Free World (FSFW), founded in 2017 with funds provided by PMI has already caused grave concern among public health and anti-tobacco activists. FSFW mainly promotes and encourages the use and marketing of various vaping products, including e-cigarettes. Following the Foundation’s inception, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also released a statement where it argued that any involvement or cooperation with this Foundation poses a grave conflict of interest. In a different statement, the WHO FCTC Secretariat said, ‘Parties to the WHO FCTC should note that any collaboration with this Foundation, due to its current funding arrangement that comes from a tobacco multinational, would constitute a clear breach of Article 5.3 of the Convention concerning tobacco industry interference.’ It is a matter of concern that the activity of this foundation is being noticed in Bangladesh for the past few years. A number of countries, including India, have decided not to work with the FSFW on a government level to prevent its controversial activities. However, Bangladesh is yet to take any such measure on this issue. As a signatory to the FCTC, Bangladesh should also not be involved with FSFW as per the suggestion of the WHO and provide necessary and clear directives in this regard. At the same time, all Bangladeshi organizations including ACE and Enam Medical College should also refrain from involving themselves with such an entity that is against public health.

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