Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn has said that the public should have access to unbiased information about safer alternatives.
In Thailand, a ban on the import, export, sale and possession of vaping products has been in place since November 2014. Anyone caught breaking this law is to have their products confiscated and fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.

Despite strong opposition from local health activists and anti-smoking campaigners, last December MP Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said he was exploring ways to legalize the sales of e-cigarettes. He was quoted by The Bangkok Post as saying that he believes vaping could be available as a safer alternative for those who are struggling to quit smoking. Moreover, he said, local tobacco growers and the Tobacco Authority of Thailand would benefit greatly if the tobacco industry were transformed into a more sustainable alternative.

In January, the minister reaffirmed his stance at a gathering where people were campaigning at the ministry. He reiterated that the legalization of e-cigarettes would enable the country to profit from tax revenue as well as offering a safer option to quit smoking. He had added that a working group will be set up to analyze whether e-cigarettes can be legalized for smokers seeking an alternative to help them quit.

However, in March the health ministry advised against lifting the ban. “The continued ban on all types of electronic cigarettes used for vaping will “help protect non-smokers from health hazards,” Health Ministry Perm-Sec Kiattipoom Wongrachit said recently at a meeting of the government’s tobacco board. “The ban on the sale of e-cigarettes is an important measure to protect children from victimization,” he added.

Meanwhile, new reports have revealed that a draft legislation to legalize e-cigarettes is now at a sub-committee of Thailand’s Parliament. Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn has alongside other health officials once again expressed support for the measure. He said that people should have access to unbiased information about safer alternatives. “More importantly, young people should be educated that these products are not for them.”

Another U-turn?

The Manila Bulletin reported that Thailand may be following in the Philippines’ footsteps in enacting a law that regulates e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and other safer alternative products.

“We expect more Southeast Asian countries to follow the lead of the Philippines and Thailand in welcoming tobacco harm reduction as the most effective public health strategy to address the smoking problem,” said Clarisse Virgino, the Philippine representative to the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

While Asa Saligupta, director of ENDS Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) said that a sensible Health Minister would not accept the dire situation in Thailand. “Smoking continues to kill about 50,000 Thai people each and every year. Too many smokers have been stuck with cigarettes or are forced onto the black market for vapes where there’s no control over the purchase age or product safety standards. An effective Public Health Minister would not accept this dire situation, let alone support it.” Asa added he is confident that the Vaping bill will be passed by Thailand’s Parliament this year.

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