ONE of the strictest countries in the world for vaping has reportedly taken its first step towards lifting its notoriously rigorous e-cigarette ban.
Thailand’s Foreign Trade ministry is currently considering allowing tourists to bring their personal vape gear and liquids into the country for personal use, according to news reports.
Importing vape products to sell or to use in public, however, will remain strictly forbidden.
In what is being seen as a positive move, a working group within the government has now been set up to look at the repercussions of lifting Thailand’s outright ban, which would mean foreigners are not found guilty of importing e-cigarettes when they bring vape products with them on holiday.
According to reports, concerns within government about the law change include the possibility of turning more people into cigarette smokers and their appeal to teenagers and young people.
Thailand remains one of the strictest countries in the world for vaping after it imposed a ban on the import, export, sale and possession of vaping products in November 2014.
Anyone found breaking the law faces a hefty fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted - with many vaping tourists finding themselves on the wrong side of the law when arriving in Thailand and not realizing the strict rules in place.
Experts and public health groups have praised the latest step towards change which comes just weeks after The End Cigarette Smoke Thailand group, or ECST, filed a request to the Office of the Ombudsman Thailand, asking for the ban on e-cigarettes to be reconsidered.
Asa Ace Saligupta, who runs the group, said earlier this year: “Thailand has a draconian approach with tourists as well as local people regularly getting arrested for vaping.
“Police often search vehicles at roadblocks for e-cigarettes and then use them to extract fines. This is not just terrible for Thai smokers who want to quit but also makes it a country to avoid for the tens of millions of tourists and business people around the world who vape.”
The group has tried to tempt the government into making the law-change by pointing out that several benefits would include bringing in new revenue to the country from taxing vape products and the country’s image would be improved after holidaymakers, who have been stung with fines for vaping, have made global headlines.
The latest development also comes after academics and vapers agreed at a seminar in April that the Thai government should follow in the footsteps of the UK by legalizing vaping in a bid to stop smokers from using cigarettes. It said it needed to become better informed on the benefits of vaping since it would improve the nation’s health and cause less pollution.
Their call for change had come after Dr Assadang Ruay-archin from the Public Health Ministry’s Disease Control Department, was criticized for stating that vape products were as hazardous to health as regular cigarettes.