Thailand e-cigarette ban expected to come to an end in 2023
According to multiple sources, the upcoming Thai election on May 14th is likely to be a turning point for Thailand’s e-cigarette policy, with the long-standing ban on e-cigarettes expected to come to an end. Despite the current laws in Thailand, which can result in confiscation, heavy fines, and even imprisonment of up to five years for possession of e-cigarettes, Thailand remains one of the major e-cigarette consumption markets in Southeast Asia, and law enforcement corruption has made it highly controversial.
Recently, Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Minister, Puttipong Punnakanta, confirmed that the “decriminalization” of e-cigarette-related behaviors would become part of the People’s Power Party (PPRP) election platform. However, there is also strong opposition to e-cigarettes in Thailand’s government, with some officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, arguing that e-cigarettes will pose health risks and encourage more people to smoke.
Anti-smoking organization, End Cigarette Smoking Thailand (ECST), has analyzed the anti-e-cigarette movement in Thailand. Its leader, Asa Saligupta, believes that the anti-e-cigarette stance is supported by powerful interest groups: “There are many anti-e-cigarette organizations in Thailand, and they have strong financial resources.” They believe that the funds for the anti-e-cigarette groups come from overseas, such as the Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation that supports some anti-e-cigarette groups operating in Thailand.
Despite this opposition, e-cigarette legalization in Thailand’s political arena is gaining momentum. Asa Saligupta mentioned that “recently, one of the most popular and famous political parties, the Future Forward Party, also announced that they will legalize (e-cigarettes) as their campaign policy.” However, the so-called e-cigarette ban has not really stopped the use of e-cigarettes in Thailand, with Asa Saligupta estimating that the underground e-cigarette market is valued at around 12 billion yuan (approximately 1.8 billion US dollars). He also mentioned that the Thai police’s use of the e-cigarette ban to extort money is “very common.”