The Office of the Ombudsman advises Thai government agencies to listen to the voices of its citizens concerning vaping prohibition

The following is a press release from the ECST group. The opinions within are their own.-Editor

E-cigarette user group reveals that the Office of the Ombudsman suggested for the relevant government agencies to listen to the public’s voice impartially, and to listen to reasons from all parties and from various dimensions in the case of complaints regarding the unfair ban on e-cigarettes.

On August 17, Mr. Asa Saligupta and Mr. Maris Karanyawat, representatives of the End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST) and the admin of the Facebook page “What is e-cigarette”, attended the meeting at the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the consideration on the complaints about the ban on sales and import of e-cigarettes. Relevant agencies such as Department of Foreign Trade, Office of the Consumer Protection Board, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, and the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Center (TRC) also attended the meeting. In which previously, the Ministry of Commerce had confirmed the resolution to keep the ban on e-cigarettes, citing TRC’s report earlier this year amid doubts among people affected by the ban.

“The current ban on e-cigarettes is a violation of the people’s right to access safer alternative products and accurate information about e-cigarettes. This is considered to be an unfair practice of deliberately refraining from performing the duty of inspecting information presented from all sides. We therefore, have requested justice from the Office of the Ombudsman to provide fairness to e-cigarette users in the country. We estimates that there are currently over 500,000 e-cigarette users nationwide, plus 11 million smokers that are looking for a less harmful alternative to replace smoking. We are glad that the Ombudsman remains an institution that the people in suffering can depend on in finding a just and transparent solution to the problem. Hence, the most important key is the people’s participation and listening to the opinions of the public, especially e-cigarette users, which we are considered to be directly impacted by the ban. ” said Mr. Asa, representative of ECST.

“Findings from various reliable agencies such as the UK, the US, and many other European countries concluded that e-cigarettes generate less harmful chemicals. We have tried to bring this information to both the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Public Health, but the presented information has never been considered to make amendments on the ban.

Previously, the committee of the Ministry of Commerce has assigned the TRC to conduct study on e-cigarettes, but the result of the studies instead confirms that the ban is appropriate without taking into account the data from the opposing sides. Additionally, it also obstructs the participation of people who have different points of view, which is against the intention of the legislation and the study of the achievement of the law. The ban has been in place for 5 years, both the country and the people have not benefited at all”.

Mr. Maris, another representative from ECST, added that “Thailand’s e-cigarette ban goes against foreign guidelines that focuses on the importance of research and scientific approaches. For example, Hong Kong and New Zealand that has recently considered control regulations on alternative products, including e-cigarettes. In which there was an open public hearing to listen to opinions from the people as well as taking into consideration results from scientific studies that include information on the advantages and disadvantages, impact on health, society, and economy. Either right or wrong, the society deserve to know the science and whole truth, and not distorted inaccurate information like nowadays”.

E-cigarettes products are prohibited from being imported and distributed in the Kingdom of Thailand according to the Ministry of Commerce announcement in 2014, and the prohibition on sale and service according to the announcement of Office of the Consumer Protection Board in 2015. However, currently there are still more than 500,000 e-cigarette users who are secretly selling and buying through illegal channels such as the underground markets or online stores. The market value is estimated to be more than 6 billion baht annually. The government cannot collect the tax on these products as income for the State, creating burden on the government agencies that have to arrest and crackdown on the illicit goods. This also creates confusion within the public about the potential of e-cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes are being sold widely, uncontrolled by the government, leaving opportunities for extortions by government officials, no measures to prevent youth access, plus, an increasing trend of e-cigarettes users.

“We would like to thank the Ombudsman for being the hope of the people and for giving the e-cigarette user network a chance to clarify the information as well as inviting all parties to discuss in order to be fair to e-cigarette users and to find appropriate solutions together. We believe that good regulation must not restrict the rights of adults who want access to less harmful alternative products, and at the same time measures to protect children and youths from accessing these products. This is a guideline that more than 60 countries around the world use to regulate the product according to the law. We hope that the committee of the Ministry of Commerce and the TRC’s subsequent reviews will be impartial and take into account the impacts on every group of individuals”.

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