Thailand- (The following is a press release by ESCT, their opinions and thoughts are their own.)
The End Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST), an E-cigarette users group, revealed an international policy paper that saw the failure of Thailand cigarette consumption reduction in comparison to the United Kingdom. The group picked up the UK’s success in decreasing harmful tobacco consumption and called for proper E-cigarette regulations instead of a total ban in Thailand.
Maris Karunyawat and Asa Saligupta, the representatives of ECST which has almost 100,000 members, revealed the study by the US-based R-Street institute that shows how Thailand is performing with the current tobacco control policy. The study entitled “EXPLORING THE DIFFERENCES IN TOBACCO POLICY BETWEEN THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THAILAND” concluded that the differences in tobacco-use exist between Thailand and the United Kingdom involving their different demographic characteristics and culture. Even though both countries have adopted WHO’s framework of tobacco control policies known as MPOWER, they have been using different approaches in Tobacco control, apparently in E-cigarette regulations, and achieve different results.
Maris stated that “Thailand still uses the same old approach toward controlling tobacco consumption and is stuck in the elusive achievement of law enforcement via high taxation, hideous health caution graphics on cigarette packages and strictly prohibiting e-cigarettes, which proved ineffective to reductions in tobacco use. Since 2013, the smoker numbers in Thailand have stalled at 19-20 percent of the population for over a decade. And, they ignore the numbers of visible e-cigarettes users among Thai people.”
By contrast in the UK, the percentage of combustible cigarette smokers dropped 5 percent, decreasing from 20 percent in 2011 to only 15 percent in 2018. In addition, the UK is widely considered as a most successful example of decreasing smoking rates, at 9 percent, among young adults ages 18-24. The legalization of E-cigarettes could contribute to the success as it offered smokers an option to switch from combustible cigarettes to less harmful products and gradually quit smoking.
The research conducted by R-Street Institute, a prominent scientific research institute, also reveals that the United Kingdom and Thailand are both praised by the WHO for their regulation of tobacco use but the two countries have taken very different approaches to tobacco control, especially regarding novel tobacco products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which include e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products. While Thailand has imposed a total ban on E-cigarettes since 2014 and vaping is illegal and there are various tiers of harsh penalties, the UK has legalized ENDS products and support e-cigarettes use as alternative less harmful products for quit smoking process, which contributed to a better outcome of UK cigarette consumption reduction.
Asa raised the example of a UK approach that could benefit everyone, saying that, “Public Health England has revealed several studies that proved that proper E-cigarette consumption is less harmful than combustible cigarette smoking. England imposed laws and regulations which considered vaper health benefits while strongly preventing new beginners from entering smoking as well as protecting young people, including measures such as an 18-year-old minimum age of purchasing, a prohibition of E-cigarette advertising, and the requirement of safety and quality standard of the products.”
Asa added that he wanted to see a big change in his country as well. “We want to see Thailand adopt the UK approach and study their effective practices how legalizing E-cigarettes with proper regulations could help public health policy solve smoking-related problems, including preventing young people from using e-cigarettes, and buying the products illegally. In mid-2020, the Thai Ombudsman has accepted our petitions, calling for reconsidering e-cigarettes legalization based on scientific research and studies with no prejudice and systematic and transparent practices. Thus we call for the Thailand government and the authorities including the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Commerce, to revise the E-cigarette ban policies and listen to all parties.”