A Swiss man has apparently been arrested and charged with “importation” of e-cigarettes for vaping in public in Thailand. He is now free on bail while he awaits trial, according to friends at the Swiss vape manufacturer StattQualm, makers of the Squape atomizer.
According to the StattQualm Facebook post about the incident, the vaper who was arrested has been told he could receive any punishment between “immediate deportation to up to 5 years imprisonment.”
According to Tobacco Asia, the penalty for illegal sales can be as high as 10 years in prison. We reported last month on the case of four men arrested for selling vapes in Thailand. Reader comments on that article suggested that vaping itself isn’t a crime, but the current case shows that vapers can be charged with “importation” for bringing products intended for personal use into the country.
Dear vape community,
In the following letter we would like to inform the community about a matter of great importance. We are deeply affected and personally involved in the incident, but renounce mentioning any names out of respect for relatives and family members. Nevertheless we are forced to warn the community:
On July 26, 2017, a close friend of StattQualm was arrested in the streets of Thailand because he used an e-cigarette. To pre-empt any doubts: The police, the Swiss Embassy, and other affected agencies were informed that our friend had not been otherwise illegally involved. Apparently and state of affairs his offense was the use of an e-cigarette in the public, more specifically, he is accused of importing e-cigarettes. This is at least the official charge.
We are aware that some countries have difficulty dealing with e-cigarettes. In Thailand, the situation seems relatively unclear and arbitrary. Apparently even in Thailand itself exists a lively, official market for e-cigarettes and the image of vaping people is no longer special in Thailand - although vaping is officially illegal in Thailand. Well, quite obviously a police officer on that date decided that vaping was "extra" illegal today. He was arrested, led away, and sat six days in jail - completely cut off from the environment, without real contact and under degrading and humiliating conditions.
Of course, embassies, relatives, friends, and also we did everything possible to get him out of prison as quickly as possible, but this has been proved incredibly difficult. In the meantime the deposit could be made. Our friend was able to leave the prison yesterday and is now waiting for the effective trial. A judgment could be an immediate deportation to up to 5 years imprisonment. We now hope that our friend will be able to leave the situation undamaged, to leave Thailand as soon as possible and to go home.
In this way we want to warn the community: If anyone of you plans to visit Thailand, please leave your vape gears at home! That's no joke. Our friend has to serve as a precedent, that no one has seen coming. No matter what you read on the net, do not take the risk. Please take care of yourself.
You are more than welcome to share this letter.
There may not be much that vapers can do to help the unfortunate Swiss man stuck in Thailand. But we can have an effect on Thai tourism. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has a website with contact information we can all use to complain. We can’t influence Thai government policy individually, but as a group we do have power and influence.
Tell the Tourism Authority that e-cigarettes have helped improve your health, and that you would never think of spending your tourist budget in a country that prevents its own citizens from having the same opportunity.