The recent story of Taiwanese actress Charlene An being extorted for money and branded a criminal for carrying a vape is shocking, but it will come as no surprise to thousands of Thais and tourists who have been asked for bribes and threatened with jail, all because they carry a device which helps them reduce the harm caused by smoking conventional cigarettes.
Many countries are now paying attention to this issue, not only to deter potential visitors but also because vapers around the world are shocked by the Thai government’s decision to ban products in defiance of international approaches.
Why should our citizens and guests be criminalized just because the government doesn’t have the will or the power to legislate for these devices as hundreds of countries around the world have done?
In the case of Charlene An, this episode has the potential to do millions of Baht of damage to a tourism industry trying desperately to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Do we really want Thailand’s new tourism slogan to be ‘Visit Thailand, get extorted’?
Many Thais also report having to pay small under-the-table fines to police on some occasions, while on other occasions they can use their vape freely. The lack of legislation is opening a window for abuse of power. In fact, the lack of clarity about the law also leaves it open to abuse, as vaping isn’t illegal – it’s the import of electronic cigarettes which remains illegal.
This only results in the trade of e-cigarettes going underground, so there are no standards on what can be sold and what is dangerous, and importantly, the government loses the ability to collect tax on sales.
Not only are we making the country less attractive to visitors and losing money from tourism, but the opportunity to collect much-needed tax revenue is also being overlooked.
The Thai government has consistently stated that it wants to advance the nation, improve the economy, get rid of corruption, and look after the needs of the populace, however, outlawing e-cigarettes until such despicable acts occur then undermines the government’s promise and the nation’s hope. Is that the society we want to live in? It’s time to improve the law by amending it.
The statements, thoughts, and opinions of the organization or individuals involved in this guest opinion are entirely their own and may not necessarily represent those of TPN media and its staff.