The Public Health Ministry snuffed out hopes that Thailand might overturn its ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
The ministry’s National Tobacco Products Control Committee reaffirmed the ban Monday, Permanent Secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit said. At the same time, the ministry told retailers and wholesalers nationwide they must start selling cigarettes with packets showing newly designed warning labels by April 11.
Vapers’ hopes had been rising for at least partial legalization of vaping since October when Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn argued that vaping is safer for people trying to quit smoking and he was looking at ways vaping could be legalized in order to offer a less harmful alternative to smoking regular cigarettes.
Thai doctors hit back immediately at the minister’s legalization proposal to Cabinet with the Medical Association of Thailand publishing an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha that was supported by heads of other organizations, 14 royal colleges and the National Alliance for Tobacco-Free Thailand.
On Tuesday, tobacco committee members agreed that Thailand, as a signatory to the World Health Organization Convention on Tobacco Control, should maintain its ban to prevent cigarette addiction among children, adolescents and non-smoking adults, Kiattiphum said.
He asserted the ban also will help protect non-smokers from health hazards caused by e-cigarettes, adding the claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to traditional cigarettes.
Contradicting the digital minister, panel members claimed e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking.
The ministry is hoping even more graphic warning labels on cigarette packets will help people quit, however.
The revised warnings include new text and pictures showing graphic details of the unhealthy consequences of smoking. To ensure the new packets are seen, the ministry is threatening retailers and wholesalers with fines of up to 40,000 baht for selling their old stock.
Those who display the name or trademark of cigarettes or advertise them also face a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to 500,000 baht and also face a daily fine of up to 50,000 baht until they stop violating the law.
As for e-cigs, the committee will forward its resolution to the Cabinet and urge relevant agencies to enforce the law on tobacco control strictly, although illegal vaping remains popular in Thailand.
In 2021, 78,742 Thais were caught smoking e-cigarettes, a third of whom were under age 24.