Thailand is known for its ban on vape product sales—and its harsh, drug war-style enforcement of the ban. But one Thai cabinet minister has decided to swim against the tide and support legalization of e-cigarettes.
Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, told the Bangkok Post this week that he is looking at ways to make vaping available in the country as an alternative to smoking. Thanakamanusorn says there are at least 10 million smokers in Thailand who could benefit.
Thanakamanusorn suggested that tobacco grown in Thailand could be used to extract nicotine for vaping products, which would benefit both Thai farmers and the Tobacco Authority of Thailand, the state-run monopoly that controls tobacco sales in the country. Countries with state-owned tobacco industries often ban or severely restrict vape product sales.
The minister will need all the friends he can get, because tobacco control groups are already lining up to oppose Thanakamanusorn’s suggestion to legalize vaping—even though no actual law or rule has been proposed yet.
“Various elements of society, both government and non-government, have been working hard to reduce the number of smokers, so legalising e-cigarettes will only exacerbate the situation,” said Somsri Pausawasdi, chair of the National Alliance for a Tobacco-Free Thailand (NATFT). The NATFT has more than 900 member groups, according to the Post.
Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Center (TRC) Director Ronnachai Kongsakon told the Post that e-cigarettes “are not safer choices for people who want to quit smoking while knowledge about their long-term effects on health remains limited for now.”
He added that international tobacco control group The Union has advised bans on vaping product sales in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The Union’s anti-vaping evangelism is partly funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has spent more than $1 billion on anti-tobacco and vaping activism over the last decade.
Unfortunately, Bloomberg also funds World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco control activities. The WHO encourages countries to sing from the Bloomberg hymnal by presenting slanted, Bloomberg-funded science as justification, and offering public praise to politicians and bureaucrats who follow the prohibitionist party line.