Thursday 28 May 2020 (Kathmandu, Nepal)—Ahead of World No Tobacco Day next Sunday, 31 May, The Union has today publicly advocated for the prohibition of the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which are home to more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers. The Union’s support of the ban is based on the release today of its new position paper, ‘Where bans are best: Why LMICs must prohibit e-cigarettes and heated tobacco product sales to truly tackle tobacco’.
The Union’s position paper is released as this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme turns the spotlight on the tobacco industry’s targeting of a new generation of young people with cigarettes and novel tobacco products, and with health systems in LMICs being further strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The paper both analyses scientific evidence documenting the health impact of novel nicotine products and cautions that governments need to be extra careful in the face of the commercial incentives driving novel tobacco product producers to hook new users and expand the nicotine market in their own countries.
“The vast majority of LMICs are still contending with very serious tobacco epidemics,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “Introducing new, highly addictive products into these environments will overwhelm governments, stress already overburdened health systems, and distract from urgent implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and related MPOWER measures.”
E-cigarettes and HTPs are enormously lucrative businesses; the former was worth US $15 billion in 2018, and HTPs are expected to be worth nearly US $18 billion by 2021.
In its 2019 report on the global tobacco epidemic, the WHO noted that there is “insufficient evidence to support the use of [e-cigarettes] as a population-level tobacco cessation intervention to help people quit conventional tobacco use” and also noted that these products are “undoubtedly harmful.”
To date, the discourse on the net public health impact of e-cigarettes and HTPs has been limited to and largely focused on high income countries. ‘Where bans are best’ expands the narrative, emphasizing that novel nicotine product policy must be context specific. In low- and middle- income countries, rapid roll out of new products will have deleterious effect, particularly for young people.
Low and middle- income countries have traditionally been a playground for big tobacco and are presently home to more than 80 percent of the world’s smokers.
Nepal, has made progress in tobacco control in recent years. However, every year, more than 27,137 of its people are killed by tobacco-caused disease. More than 21,000 children (10-14 years old) and 30,46,000 adults (15+ years old) continue to use tobacco each day. The tobacco industry is actively pursuing new strategies, and e-cigarettes and HTPs represent the next step in this aggressive campaign.
“The data continue to emerge on e-cigarettes and HTPs,” said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific region at The Union. “But what we already know suggests a looming, new epidemic, and youth will be its face. In an abundance of caution, The Union believes policy makers should embrace the precautionary principal, which urges preventative action. For LMICs, that means e-cigarette and HTP sales bans.”
The Union partners and allies in the fight against tobacco in Nepal support The Union’s recommendation:
Lekh Raj Bhatta, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies said: “According to the WHO, e-cigarettes are harmful to health and are not safe. The Government of Nepal is committed to prohibiting production, importation and sales of these products.”
Khagraj Adhikari, Member of Parliament Nepal, Chair of APCAT Parliamentarians, said: “Vaping has gained popularity among the youth in Nepal. Awareness about its potentially harmful effects is still low. We must enact policies to ban e-cigarettes and HTPs to prevent more unnecessary death.”
Niru Devi Pal, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Women, Children and Social Welfare said: “Now more than ever, it is critical for the nation to prevent our children, youth and pregnant women from using these highly addictive products and to immediately adopt regulation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.”
Renu Dahal, Mayor of Bharatpur Metropolitan City said: “I am deeply concerned about the growing epidemic of e-cigarette use and potential health damage from these products. I support the Union’s call to ban e- cigarettes and HTPs”.
Puskar Raj Nepal, Deputy Secretary (Legal) and Member Secretary of Tobacco Control and Regulatory Committee at Ministry of Health and Population said: “Because tobacco companies are marketing to youth with misleading media campaigns, the use of e-cigarettes is increasing. Thus, Ministry of Health and Population is working to review and revise current tobacco control laws with strong provisions to ban the sale and use of these products in Nepal.”
Ananda Bahadur Chand, President, Action Nepal said: “Tobacco Industries are misleading youth, stating that e-cigarettes are harmless and encouraging their uptake amongst non-smokers. Hence, the government should curb the marketing, sales and import these harmful products.”
Contacts: Sabita Karapan, [email protected] Tel: +65 69149825
The Union was founded in 1920 and is the world’s first global health organization. We are a global leader in ending TB, we fight the tobacco industry, and we solve key problems in treating major diseases. We use science to design the best treatments and policies for the most pressing public health challenges affecting people living in poverty around the world. The Union’s members, staff and consultants operate in more than 140 countries and embody our core values of accountability, independence, quality and solidarity.