ECST urged for an independent committee to study researches on e-cigarettes
Revealed anti-smoking networks omitting information and suppressing the voice of the people
An e–cigarette user group known as ‘End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST)’ revealed results of its online campaign “Speak your mind: what do you want to say to Public Health Ministry?” with the hashtag #บอกหนูหน่อย (which means “tell Minister Anutin”) confirming e-cigarette users disagreeing with the ban on e-cigarette. They urged for “proper regulation” to legalize the product and suggested to have an independent committee to study the regulation and scientific-based research on e-cigarette.
Maris Karanyawat, a representative of ECST said “During the World No Tobacco Day week, we held an online campaign to reveal the failure of the ban policy on e-cigarettes and had gathered opinions from e-cigarette users and those who disagree with the ban. Thus, NGO doctors and anti-smoking networks have tried every way to distort and withhold information by acknowledging only the harm of the product, despite the fact that other countries such as England, New Zealand, and U.S. all support the use of e-cigarettes. We believe that consumers should have the right to access accurate information, and should have the right to decide and choose to use safer alternative products. But currently, we are forced to continue smoking because there is no other alternative.
“Previously, the Department of Foreign Trade assigned the Tobacco Research and Knowledge Management Center (TRC) to study the advantages and disadvantages of banning e-cigarettes. The research came out to be bias, full of prejudice and without neutral standpoint, only one-sided information from groups that advocate against smoking. Therefore, in light of this year World No Tobacco Day we released an online campaign #บอกหนูหน่อย. An event of around 1 week to discuss with experts from economics, lawyers, and e-cigarette users. Around 800 messages were collected, in which majority said that they were able to quit smoking because they had switched to use e-cigarette. Many others also said that they were treated unfairly as they got arrested by the authorities because they were using e-cigarette, and believe that the government should not prevent the public access to the right information.
“Developed countries around the world, such as European countires, Canada, and England, do not ban e-cigarettes. Since the ban of e-cigarettes in 2014, there is still more than 500,000 users in the country as well as black market trading of the products. This opens the door for authority to extort and arrest e-cigarette users. Children and youth can easily access the products without any inspection, and there is also no control over the product standards. If the ban is the appropriate measure as the government claims it to be, why do we still see these problems in the newspaper every day?” said Mr Asa Saligupta.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Unkang Sae Lim, Professor at the Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University provided information through an online discussion with ECST that the ban contradicts to the market mechanism. This is because the more we drive e-cigarette underground, the more corruption it causes. The size of Thailand underground market is ranked top 10 in the world or around 8 million baht, we should not let e-cigarette contribute to increasing the underground market value.
“Studies from various countries indicate that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes and many countries around the world have allowed e-cigarettes to be a “legal” product, with “appropriate control policy”. For instance, England and New Zealand encourages smokers to switch to use e-cigarettes and in both countries, there seems to be no problems in the frontier of children and youth accessing the products. Therefore, if Thailand were to consider revising on the ban regulation and focus on emphasizing legal control to protect children and youth, but also provides opportunity for e-cigarette users to have new alternative. It will help problems stated, but if we keep prohibiting as before, every problems that exist right now will continue to go on”.
In accordance with the opinion of Mr. Kerdphon Kaewkerd, a famous independent lawyer who participated in the online campaign. He stated that the cost for banning e-cigarettes is too high, which is unfair to the people. If the government wants to revise or cancel the e-cigarette Prohibition Act, the Ministry of Commerce have the power to reconsider and revise it at any time. He added that there is currently no law against the users.
“We will gather the opinions of users and supporter of e-cigarette, including the opinions from other experts to submit to Mr. Anutin Charnvirakul, Minister of Public Health and leader of Bhumjaithai Party to call for an establishment of an independent committee to study e-cigarette regulations base on scientific evidence, focusing on non-bias research that will allow for a proper regulation formulation” Mr. Maris concluded.