Thailand considers providing free e-cigarettes following England’s strategy

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Thailand‘s End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) Group has praised the UK‘s efforts to provide free vaping kits and its focus on preventing minors from accessing e-cigarettes. This positive response follows England’s recent announcement of a £45 million budget for the distribution of vaping kits to reduce smoking rates.

The campaign includes a further £3 million budget dedicated to monitoring and clamping down on e-cigarette sales to underage buyers. Meanwhile, in Thailand, the sale and use of e-cigarettes remain illegal, leading to an unregulated black market and increased access for minors. As a result, the ECST group hopes that the Thai government in the 2023 elections will reconsider and potentially legalise vaping.

Asa Saligupta, a representative of ECST and the Facebook page “What are e-cigarettes?”, which has over 100,000 followers, shared their thoughts on how the UK’s regulations could benefit Thailand…

“E-cigarettes are legal in England, allowing its government to impose measures and effectively enforce the regulations to protect minors. The UK government is set to allow £45 million to reduce the country’s smoking rate and another £3 million for clamping down on shops selling vapes to youths under the age of 18.”

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The UK’s “Swap to Stop” project aims to distribute free vaping kits to over one million smokers, encouraging them to quit conventional cigarettes in favour of a less harmful alternative. This initiative forms part of the UK government’s broader commitment to reduce England’s smoking rate to below 5% by 2030. To accompany this campaign, illegal vape sales are being targeted with a dedicated “illicit vapes enforcement squad,” armed with the power to close shops found to be breaking the law. The UK’s approach contrasts with Thailand’s current situation, as Asa explains…

“The ban [in Thailand] is claimed to protect minors, but the sales and use of e-cigarettes are overt and commonplace. Children can easily access e-cigarettes through online channels without any regulations or inspections.”

Maris Karanyawat, another representative of the ECST group, suggests that following the UK’s example could be the solution to Thailand’s current e-cigarette policy issues…

“The subcommittee for studying factors affecting the health system and monitoring the enforcement of public health laws issued a report, which is based on a comprehensive study and opinions of all groups involved in the e-cigarette issue. The report suggests that Thailand should lift the ban on e-cigarettes so that they can be appropriately controlled through the 2017 Tobacco Products Control Act.”

Many proponents of e-cigarette legalisation hope that the new Thai government, post-2023 elections, will take a more consistent approach in line with international practices and emerging scientific evidence. This would, in theory, help diminish the negative effects on smokers and protect minors from access to vaping products.

In preparation for the upcoming 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, scheduled to take place in Panama in November, Maris says, “We hope that the Thai delegates will take into account the public health committee’s report, which recommends that a tobacco harm reduction approach be developed based on new scientific evidence which shows that e-cigarettes should be controlled differently from combustible cigarettes because they have different harmful effects.”

The overall goal is to reduce the exposure of Thailand’s 9.9 million smokers to toxic chemicals and promote healthier alternatives.

More about Vaping in Thailand HERE.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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