Thailand’s health minister won’t stop vaping legalization

“Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul may not support legalizing e-cigarettes, but most politicians and the public do, with legal vape sales just months away,” says Asa Saligupta, director of ECST (ENDS Cigarette Smoke Thailand).

Mr. Saligupta’s comments follow the public health minister publicly saying that his ministry will not support legalization during a meeting with the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth).

“He does politics. After his abysmal handling of the pandemic, among other things, he could easily lose his seat in the next general election in Thailand. He is just freaking out but has completely underestimated the broad support for legalizing and regulating vaping,” says Mr. Saligupta.

With a bill before a sub-committee, the ECST director remains confident that the vaping bill will pass the Thai parliament this year.

“The Thai government can and will regulate safer nicotine products no matter what a minister says. Let us not forget that the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, government officials and public health experts have all played key roles in finally confronting the failure of tobacco control policies in Thailand” , he said.

Mr Saligupta says Thailand’s ban and tough sanctions on vape imports and sales have failed.

“Smoking continues to kill an estimated 50,000 Thais every year. Too many smokers have been stuck with cigarettes or are forced to turn to the black market for vapes where there are no checks on the age of purchase or product safety standards. An effective public health minister would not accept this dire situation, let alone support it,” he says.

The ECST thinks it’s no surprise that the minister made his anti-vaping statement to ThaiHealth board members. Its senior adviser, Dr. Prakit Vathesatogkit, recently received the Dr. Lee Jong-wook Memorial Award from the World Health Organization (WHO) for his work against tobacco. He has also been a leading voice against the legalization of vaping.

“ThaiHealth, as well as some local conservative health voices, continue to publicly scare people away, conveniently ignoring the growing success of tobacco harm reduction (THR) around the world. By joining the minority, Thailand’s public health minister is now part of an increasingly isolated crowd that continues to follow the WHO’s discredited anti-vaping agenda,” he says.

According to Mr Saligupta, ignoring the WHO, nearly 70 countries have now adopted regulatory frameworks on safer nicotine products, resulting in a dramatic drop in their overall smoking rates. The Philippines and Malaysia are also on the verge of legalizing vaping.

“Fortunately, the Thai government remains on the right side of the debate. The regulations will give consumers better protection, encourage more smokers to quit lethal cigarettes, and ensure we have much better control over youth vaping with a strict purchase age,” he says.

The ECST says experts and THR advocates around the world have been alarmed by Mr Charnvirakul’s latest comments.

In recent months, applause and praise have come from around the world as Thai politicians and officials have pledged to follow international evidence and best practice in public health.

“As someone who has lived and breathed this journey of legalization for several years, I can assure everyone that there is nothing to see here. Thailand’s skyrocketing smoking rate should finally be resolved with legal vape sales and product regulation now looming,” Mr. Saligupta said.

ECST is a member of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).

A global collaboration of THR consumer groups, sCOPe, has launched a comprehensive library of panel discussions and online presentations. To access the SCOPe online library, visit https://bit.ly/319zzkx

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