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Unraveling Thailand’s Strict Vaping Laws: Science or Special Interests?

Vaping is a popular alternative to smoking that has been proven to be less harmful and more effective for quitting cigarettes. However, in Thailand, vaping is illegal and punishable by hefty fines or even jail time. Is this ban justified by scientific evidence or is it a result of political and economic interests? In this blog, I will explore the legal status of vaping in Thailand and the prospects of change in the near future.
Vaping is the act of inhaling aerosol produced by an electronic device that heats a liquid containing nicotine, flavorings, and other substances. Unlike smoking, vaping does not produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are the main causes of smoking-related diseases and deaths. According to Public Health England, vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and can help smokers quit more successfully than other methods¹. Moreover, vaping does not expose non-smokers to second-hand smoke, which is also harmful to health and the environment.
Despite the evidence of vaping’s benefits, Thailand has banned the import, export, sale, and possession of e-cigarettes and e-liquids since 2014. The ban is enforced by the Customs Department, the Consumer Protection Board, and the police, who can impose fines of up to 30,000 Baht (about 945 USD) or jail sentences of up to 10 years for anyone caught with vaping products⁴. This has created a black market for vaping products, where quality and safety standards are not guaranteed. It has also deterred many tourists from visiting Thailand, as they risk losing their vaping devices or facing legal troubles if they bring them along⁵.

The main reason behind the ban seems to be the protection of the tobacco industry, which is partly owned by the Thai government and generates billions of Baht in taxes every year. The tobacco industry fears losing its market share and profits to vaping products, which are cheaper and more appealing to smokers. Therefore, it lobbies the government and funds anti-vaping campaigns that spread misinformation and fear about vaping’s risks⁵. However, these claims are not supported by scientific research, which shows that vaping is much safer than smoking and does not lead to nicotine addiction or youth uptake. Furthermore, many countries that have legalized and regulated vaping have seen a decline in smoking rates and a better control over youth vaping². For example, in the United Kingdom, where vaping is endorsed by public health authorities as a harm reduction tool, smoking prevalence has dropped from 20% in 2011 to 14% in 2019.
In conclusion, vaping is a safer alternative to smoking that can help smokers quit and improve public health. However, in Thailand, vaping is illegal and subject to harsh penalties that violate human rights and harm tourism. The ban is based on economic and political interests rather than scientific evidence or public welfare. Therefore, it is time for Thailand to follow the example of other countries that have embraced vaping as a harm reduction strategy and to lift its ban on vape sales. If you agree with me, please sign this petition to urge the Thai government to legalize vaping and join ECST, a consumer group that advocates for vapers’ rights in Thailand.

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