Despite strong opposition from local health activists and anti-smoking campaigners, last December MP Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said he is exploring ways to legalize the sales of e-cigarettes. He was quoted by The Bangkok Post as saying 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 one.

In January, the minister reaffirmed his stance at a gathering where people were campaigning at his ministry. He reiterated that the legalisation of e-cigarettes would enable the country to profit from tax revenue as well as offering a safer option to quit smoking. While in recent days he said 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.

Asa Salikupt, from the End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) network, has commended DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn’s plan, adding that he hopes the working group will be transparent, open to public opinions and be willing to receive feedback from current vapers. “We believe the legalisation of e-cigarettes will help Thailand achieve the goal of reducing cigarette smokers and protecting non-smokers from the danger of second-hand smoke,” he said.

Thailand’s negative ranking

Up until recently, Thailand maintained a draconian approach towards vaping. A 2019 survey conducted at the annual Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, ranked Thailand the worst country in the world to be an e-cigarette user in, and Australia the second worst.

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 was to have their products confiscated and fined or sent to prison for up to 10 years if convicted.

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