October 29, 2018

Will Thailand Rethink Its Harsh Vape Ban?

Thailand’s vape ban is no joke. The Southeast Asian country prohibits the manufacture, sale, and importation of e-cigarettes. And even possession of vapor products could earn you time in jail.

But now the government is reviewing its policy, following the efforts by the Thai vaping advocacy group ECST, which is a member of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO). ECST has asked the Thai Office of the Ombudsman to reconsider the ban.

ECST says that reasonable regulation of vapor products would benefit both vapers (and smokers) and the government, which could tax the products, and also avoid some of the bad publicity its ban has generated. Incidents of foreign visitors being detained for “importing” vapes have led to tourism-damaging headlines. Thailand’s vaping restrictions have even led to an official tourist advisory from the U.K. government.

ECST member Marit Karunyawat told Asia Times that regulation would also allow the government to restrict advertising and impose minimum age laws that would reduce youth use of vapes.

The vaping group delivered a petition to the government signed by 40,000 supporters of liberalized vaping regulation. The Ministry of Commerce is now reviewing the law.

Thailand banned the sale of e-cigarettes in 2014. Since then the country has earned the reputation of being one of the harshest anti-vaping authorities in the world. Multiple police raids and arrests of vape vendors have been reported in Thai newspapers, along with a celebrity vaping arrest.

Despite the strict laws, Thailand has a thriving English-language vaping forum where the laws and their enforcement are a regular topic.

The Thai government controls cigarette sales and generates revenue not just from excise taxes, but also through sales by the Tobacco Authority of Thailand (formerly called the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly). The government agency produces and sells several brands of cigarettes, which bring in billions for the state.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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