Save children from toy pods
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Save children from toy pods

Examples of vaporisers that feature designs of popular cartoon characters. (Photo: Srirach Lapyai)
Examples of vaporisers that feature designs of popular cartoon characters. (Photo: Srirach Lapyai)

The news about "toy pods" -- a new type of e-cigarette that is proving popular among young students -- might be quite shocking for parents. The lukewarm reaction from the government is more shocking still.

Health advocacy groups and parents are appalled by the study unveiled late last month by Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre (TRC) at the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, about "toy pods" -- a popular object of plays among primary schools' students.

This fifth generation of e-cigarettes comes dressed up like figurines of famous cartoon characters or cute miniatures of toys, food or stationery items. Each one contains up to 5% synthetic nicotine and yields up to 15,000 puffs.

Available in various flavours -- watermelon, coca-cola, mint and more -- nicotine from e-cigarettes can affect children's hearts, brain cells, memories, concentration, and respiratory system and can cause seizures and heart failure, according to Dr Vijj Kasemsup, director of the TRC under the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University.

Toy pods are selling for 100-300 baht and can easily be purchased. Studies show that 309 online vendors were found to be illegally selling e-cigarettes through social media channels, including X, Facebook and Instagram, between January and February.

The authorities recently found 70 e-cigarette shops located within a 500-metre radius of schools and universities in Bangkok.

Since then, there has been no response from the responsible ministries. Education Minister Permpoon Chidchob remains quiet despite the ministry overseeing thousands of state schools nationwide.

Public Health Minister Dr Cholnan Srikaew, who is highly active when it comes to the topic of marijuana, is relatively quiet about toy pods. Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Prasert Jantararuangthong gives no reaction, as if he did not know the DES regulates precisely the online platform on which toy pods are sold.

Yet Mr Prasert still trumps his predecessor, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn -- a former MP of the Palang Pracharath Party who openly supports the legalisation of e-cigarettes in many a parliamentary session.

Only a few show they actually care about kids.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) under Governor Chadchart Sittipunt deserves applause for quickly launching campaigns to educate 250,000 students at 437 BMA schools. Following a monitoring campaign, a seven-year-old student at one BMA school was found to be hiding a toy pod shaped like a UHT milk carton in his bag.

More praise must go to The Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Foundation. On a recent Wednesday, the foundation launched a seminar to discuss how to prevent the use of e-cigarettes among children. The ASH seminar attracted over a hundred health advocate groups and parents. No big names in the government or lawmakers attended. Only Warawut Yancharoen, an assistant minister of the Prime Minister's Office, attended the opening ceremony. He was quoted as saying the issue has concerned PM Srettha Thavisin, who already instructed agencies to halt the distribution of e-cigarettes in schools.

PM Srettha needs to communicate better with the public about what he is going to do regarding e-cigarettes in schools and his policy on this illegal product. Lip service won't cut it. It is morally irresponsible to risk the health of our children.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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