A 2019 survey conducted at the annual Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, had ranked Thailand the worst country in the world to be a vaper in.
Thai tobacco control experts are sounding the alarm about a concerning new trend involving a new genre of vapes known as “toy pods.” These are designed to resemble popular cartoon characters, in a shockingly obvious effort to appeal to school-aged children and university students.

In addition, there is a flourishing local black market of illicit vapes, which in most cases are openly available for sale (naturally without any age restrictions in place). Experts have long warmed that this would be the result of Thailand’s harsh stance on vaping and its refusal to regulate the products.

A 2019 survey conducted at the annual Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, had ranked Thailand the worst country in the world to be a vaper in, followed by Australia. 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.

In 2021, the situation looked hopeful when Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, said he was exploring ways to legalize the sales of e-cigarettes. At the time, he told The Bangkok Post that in his opinion 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 August 2022, the minister reaffirmed his stance at a gathering where people were campaigning at his ministry. He said that regulating vapes would enable the country to profit from tax revenue as well as offering a safer option to quit smoking. He had even mentioned setting up a working group to analyse how the products could be legalized for smokers seeking an alternative to help them quit.

The health ministry remains staunchly in favour of the ban

Sadly a few months later all hopes were crushed when the local 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,” said Health Ministry Perm-Sec Kiattipoom Wongrachit 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.

Speaking at a national conference on cigarettes and public health later that year, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stressed the importance of keeping the products banned. He said that over 80,000 vapers in Thailand are aged 15–24.

Charnvirakul inaccurately claimed that vaping has led to the creation of new smokers, particularly among young individuals. He suggested that a growing body of international research highlights the negative impact of e-cigarette use on the developing brains of youths, effectively equating cigarettes and vapes.

Moreover, Charnvirakul asserted that implementing a vape ban would safeguard Thailand’s youth. However, Asa Saligupta, the Director of ECST (ENDS Cigarette Smoke Thailand), rebutted this assertion, arguing that the opposite is true. Saligupta stated that legalizing and regulating vaping would afford Thailand greater control over youth vaping, highlighting that the current ban is exacerbating the situation.

“Driving vaping underground only makes it more attractive to young people. Further, a total absence of regulatory control enables the black market to thrive with no product safety standards whatsoever,” added Saligupta. And sadly, this is exactly what has been happening.

Toy pods come in cartoon characters or cute miniatures of objects like toys and food

Discussing the influx of the aforementioned “toy pods,” Srirach Lapyai, a project manager at the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre (TRC), highlighted that vape manufacturers are producing vapes to resemble famous cartoon characters or cute miniatures of various objects like toys, food, or stationery items. These products allegedly contain synthetic nicotine levels of up to 5% and are capable of delivering up to 15,000 puffs.

It has been reported that the proliferation of the toy-shaped vapes has become widespread even among primary school students, which is of course very alarming. Many first graders have been discovered carrying these devices, which, due to their mouthpiece design resembling cute figurines, are often difficult to identify as e-cigarettes.

TRC director Dr. Vijj Kasemsup, noted that manufacturers of these new-generation vapes specifically target younger demographics by establishing shops and launching promotional campaigns on social media platforms tailored to their preferences and lifestyles. A recent report identified 309 online vendors illicitly selling e-cigarettes via social media channels like X, Facebook, and Instagram between January and February.

Thai authorities have identified 70 vape shops situated within 500 meters of schools and universities in Bangkok alone. Proposals for legal actions against these establishments aim to establish a safety mechanism to curb the spread of e-cigarettes among students and young people.

Asking for more of what is obviously failing

Dr. Kasemsup emphasized the detrimental health effects of nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes on children. Sadly, instead of advocating for the products to be regulated, he is urging the Thai government to uphold the ban on vapes and imports while actively enforcing regulations against such products, basically asking for more of the same.

Meanwhile, the ECST Director has previously said he remains confident that vaping products will ultimately be regulated, because politicians and the public alike are in favour of lifting the ban. “Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates will keep quietly working behind the scenes. Regulation will give consumers better protection, encourage more smokers to quit deadly cigarettes, and ensure we have much better control over youth vaping with a strict purchase age,” said Asa Saligupta.

Thailand Bans The Sales of Cannabis Vapes





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