At one point it became impossible to count the number of times the Thai government announced a ban on vaping due to the frequency they enacted a new piece of prohibitive legislation. Each time it was met with indifference and ignored by the police, vapers, and shop owners selling vaping products.
Finally, they all took it seriously as raids were conducted, sellers locked up. Travel experts warned potential visitors to the country about product seizures by customs officers when landing in Bangkok while the police began arresting and jailing tourists for vaping in public.
Last Tuesday, Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn announced that he was “exploring” ways in which the sale of e-cig products could be legalised.
Remarkably, he went on to note that over 67 countries have now accepted the evidence surrounding vaping and approved the e-cigarette as a reduced harm product to combat the perils of smoking.
He explained his confusion as to why Thailand currently bans the manufacture, import and sale of vaping devices and e-liquids as they are a safer product to use for smokers who have struggled to quit using other traditional approaches.
Thailand currently has more than 10 million smokers, smoking their way through more than 46 billion cigarettes each year, of which 106,000 die each year from smoking-related diseases.
A clue as to why Thailand has been so strict on reduced harm products like vaping lies with The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly. The company is owned by the state, is the only is the only tobacco producer in the country and holds a firm grip over almost three-quarters of the local cigarette market.
Meanwhile, money from two of Michael Bloomberg’s organisations (The Union and Bloomberg Philanthropies) floods into the bank accounts of the anti-tobacco groups proliferating throughout Thailand. One, the National Alliance for a Tobacco-Free Thailand said: “Various elements of society, both government and non-government, have been working hard to reduce the number of smokers, so legalising e-cigarettes will only exacerbate the situation.”
The local paper reports the National Alliance for a Tobacco-Free Thailand saying, “vaping could do more harm than good” and “e-cigarettes are not safer choices for people who want to quit smoking”.
It will be interesting to see if truth and evidence finally wins out over vested interests and fact-free ideological zealotry. There are at least 106,000 reasons why it should.