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Another Thai Twist

Despite it looking a possibility that Thailand would reverse its anti-vape stance, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says the ban will remain in place “to protect youths”

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Last year, a Thai Minister called for the country to overturn its harsh ban. Then, by May, a leading regional harm reduction advocate said legal vape sales were only months away from happening. Despite it looking a possibility that Thailand would reverse its anti-vape stance, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul recently announced that the ban will remain in place “to protect youths”.

In 2021, Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Minister, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, told local media that vaping is safer for people trying to quit smoking. Additionally, he announced he was looking at ways vaping could be legalised to offer a less harmful alternative to smoking regular cigarettes.

The announcement was greeted warmly by Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates: “Support for the Minister has gone global! This should be a massive wake-up call for Thailand’s Government. He’s on the side of science and his calls have exposed the fact that Thailand has fallen well behind internationally when it comes to adopting effective tobacco harm reduction policies.”

Ecigs have had a turbulent and confusing history in Thailand. A vape ban was introduced in 2014 - but nobody paid any attention to it. Vaping was repeatedly banned. Eventually, in 2017, authorities started cracking down on ecigs and vapers. The UK Foreign Office advised tourists that mods and juices were best left at home. Travel agents issued similar warnings. Vapers were arrested, fined, and some placed in jail.

Fast forward to February this year and Asa Saligupta, Director of ENDS Cigarette Smoke Thailand, said: “Countries which have chosen to legalise and regulate e-cigarettes have seen a fall in overall smoking rates and have much better control over youth vaping. It’s exciting for Thailand, and in fact the world, that the Government is now set to overturn its ban on the sale of vape products.”

The thing is that Thai Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is staunchly rejecting any form of harm reduction approach. Bowing to conservative health groups and Bloomberg funded pressure, worried more about the potential loss to tobacco farmers than the benefits of helping adults quit smoking.

Last week, speaking to a national conference in Bangkok, Anutin Charnvirakul claimed a study last year “clearly showed vaping has created new smokers, especially young people, while a growing number of international studies found smoking e-cigarettes has negative effects on young people's brains”.

He claimed the Thailand ban has been a successful way of preventing teen vaping and argued that it must remain in place.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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