Govt 'will not legalise' e-cigarettes

Govt 'will not legalise' e-cigarettes

A staff puts e-cigarettes, their chemical flavourings and other related materials on display before a press briefing by the Consumer Protection Police Division on Jan 27, 2021. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
A staff puts e-cigarettes, their chemical flavourings and other related materials on display before a press briefing by the Consumer Protection Police Division on Jan 27, 2021. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists the Public Health Ministry will not support legalising electronic cigarettes in the country.

He made his remark on Monday during a meeting with board members of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) to discuss tobacco control.

Mr Anutin, in his capacity as chairman of the ThaiHealth board, said he has noticed e-cigarettes trending among teenagers and some of them are aiming to have sales legalised.

"The ministry will not support the legalisation of e-cigarettes," he said.

To help boost e-cigarette control, Mr Anutin said he has assigned a tobacco control panel under the Department of Disease Control (DDC) to review current regulations to determine whether they should be revised or new rules should be issued.

However, current laws can still suppress the e-cigarette grade, he said.

"The DDC has also been instructed to coordinate with police to come up with a solution in preventing e-cigarettes from becoming more popular in the future," he said.

Dr Surachet Satitniramai, second deputy chairman of ThaiHealth, said that currently, many business operators are attempting to legalise the import of e-cigarettes to the country, which is a topic of concern among members of the committee.

"E-cigarettes will have a widespread effect on tobacco farmers in the country," he said. "As the materials of e-cigarettes don’t consist of tobacco but chemical, farmers will suffer income loss."

"It also affects [public] health and the government’s plan in steering the economy for agricultural groups," he added. 

Nicotine-based e-cigarettes come in a wide array of flavours. Many of them deliver amped-up forms of nicotine beyond what traditional cigarettes contain.

Unfortunately, the popularity of these products has outpaced regulations and oversight, which leaves most of their ingredients a mystery.

E-cigarettes are still relatively new, so facts about the short and long-term health effects of inhaling the chemicals they contain are just beginning to emerge.

According to researchers at New York University, the use of e-cigarettes doubled the risk of erectile dysfunction in men aged 20 and older.

However, the effects of cigarette smoking are well-established. 

Smoking is the leading risk factor for early death and disability in the country, and almost 50,000 Thais die due to tobacco use each year - far greater than the mortality rate from Covid-19.

Worldwide, about half of smokers die of a smoking-related disease. 

According to the UK’s Royal College of Physicians, e-cigarette use is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. "The hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco," it said in a report.

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