Hazy vape law makes waves
Tide may turn if PPRP wins poll
published : 3 Feb 2023 at 04:04
newspaper section: News
The laws regulating e-cigarettes have sparked controversy, prompting a cabinet minister to propose vaping be legalised while police have launched operations to crack down on the sale of the devices.
The move came after a police officer allegedly demanded a foreign tourist pay 60,000 baht for possessing an e-cigarette in Pattaya, triggering a public debate on whether owning vaping devices should be illegal.
Critics ask why the devices are so easily available in the country if they are against the law.
Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn admitted on Thursday that e-cigarettes are popular with certain groups of people in Thailand and are legal in many other countries.
"Vaping has become part of their way of life," he said.
"In countries where vaping is banned by law, people still find ways to sell and use them secretly, leading to illegal businesses and bribes [among authorities]. They are still sold both online and in markets [despite being illegal].
"We should stop pretending [vaping has been successfully banned]. We are still struggling to deal with the problem.
"Most importantly, I think vaping should be legalised so the government can collect taxes from e-cigarettes for the benefit of the public.
"If vaping is decriminalised and related laws are amended to be compatible with people's way of life, this would also help prevent bribery and corruption.
"I will also push for the decriminalisation of vaping to be a policy of the Palang Pracharath Party for the coming general election,'' said Mr Chaiwut, who is also a deputy leader of the ruling party.
Pol Maj Gen Theeradet Thammasuthee, commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau's (MPB) investigation centre, said the MPB commissioner, Pol Lt Gen Thiti Saengsawang, has instructed all 88 police stations in Bangkok to ramp up crackdowns on those who sell e-cigarettes.
Previously, a senior sergeant major in the police force was transferred to an inactive post pending an investigation after he was alleged to have demanded 60,000 baht from a foreign tourist who was caught with a vape.
His transfer came in the wake of a news report and associated photos that aired on Channel 3 on Tuesday.
A Chinese tour guide reportedly sent a message to other guides in his group saying a tourist under his care had been detained for possessing a vape by a policeman who demanded the whopping amount. After some bargaining, the sum was reduced to 30,000 baht. The incident allegedly occurred in Pattaya around Jan 28.
After learning about the report, Pol Maj Gen Kampol Leelaprapakorn, the Chon Buri police superintendent, sent an urgent letter telling the chief of Pattaya police to investigate the matter.
The probe found the policeman was Pol Snr Sgt Maj Noppakrit Pornwatanathanakij, a traffic police officer. Pol Maj Gen Kampol on Tuesday transferred him outside Pattaya to assist with the operations centre at Chon Buri police headquarters. A fact-finding committee has been set up.
Pol Lt Gen Trairong Phiewphan, commissioner of the Office of Legal Affairs and Litigation under the Royal Thai Police, said e-cigarettes are banned under the Customs Act, the Public Health Ministry Act and an announcement issued by the Commerce Ministry.
Pol Col Prateep Charoenkul, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB), said the OCPB takes tough legal action against anyone selling e-cigarettes.
Even if those who possess them do not know they are illegal, the devices must be confiscated and destroyed, he said.
Patcharapan Prajuablap, secretary-general of the Thailand Youth Institute, said courier firms must be better scrutinised so illegal products cannot be shipped into the country easily.