BANGKOK – While electronic cigarettes are banned in Thailand, debate continues about whether to legalize them so the government can regulate a market that has now gone underground.
The Ends Cigarette Smoke Thailand group, or ECST, has filed a request to the director of Law and Litigation Department in the Office of the Ombudsman Thailand, asking for the ban on e-cigarettes to be reconsidered.
The devices were banned on December 12, 2014, by the Ministry of Commerce, which also banned shisha tobacco. According to the Office of the Consumer Protection Board, the sale of e-cigarettes is prohibited. Vendors and smokers can be fined 500,000 baht and put in jail for five years, while producers or importers could be fined one million baht and jailed for up to 10 years.
The ESCT believes that making e-cigarettes legal would bring benefits to both sides as the government would receive more tax and dropping the ban would improve Thailand’s image after tourists were fined for smoking e-cigarettes, drawing criticism from many quarters.
On the slightly positive side, legalizing e-cigarettes would allow the tens of millions of people who smoke cigarettes to use something less harmful, according to research. A study said e-cigarettes would help reduce health risks and decrease the number of people smoking.
Marit Karunyawat, a representative of the ESCT, stated that although e-cigarettes were banned in Thailand, the government cannot control or protect teenagers from buying e-cigarettes illegally. He suggested the government legalize e-cigarettes so they could fully control and set up a law banning advertising and those under 20 years old from using the products, as they do in the United States.
The ESCT quoted information from a conference called the “Global Forum on Nicotine” in Poland, which said smoking e-cigarettes was safer than normal cigarettes. Thailand is one of 30 countries that banned e-cigarettes.
Dr Roengrudee Patanavanich, the deputy manager of the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Center, said there were increasing numbers of e-cigarette smokers in Thailand and around the world. However, up to 30.5% of people who smoke e-cigarettes wrongly thought that e-cigarettes had a good scent, were safe and modern and were non-additive.
The request to reconsider the ban on e-cigarettes by the ESCT has been under consideration by the Ministry of Commerce since October 8, 2018.
By Dusita Maneemuang