Digital Economy and Society Minister, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, has urged the National Tobacco Products Control Committee to revise its ban on the import and sale of e-cigarettes in the country.
Mr Chaiwut said he has petitioned the committee to revise its decision to ban electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on March 28 because a committee set up by the ministry found that people opted for e-cigarettes because they believed them to be less harmful to their health.
He said research in 70 developed countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and other European countries had shown that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes and, in each case, their sale has been government-backed.
Despite the ban, they are illegally imported and sold online.
If the government allows the lawful import and sale of e-cigarettes, it will be able to set standards for selling and gain benefits through a tobacco tax, he said.
Mr Chaiwut claimed that the National Tobacco Products Control Committee was unlikely to have conducted the most thorough of surveys or have interviewed a broad number of proponents of electronic cigarettes.
The absolute ban will not help tackle health problems and actually violates the right of people to have a safer smoking option.
“E-cigarettes have been accepted in many countries as being less of a health hazard than ordinary cigarettes,” he said.
Mr Chaiwut also said it was a shame because e-cigarettes have the potential to protect young people from smoking, and a better course of action would be to control them under a similar policy to cigarettes, with no advertising or online sales.
According to a survey by the National Statistical Office last year, 10 million Thais smoke and 52% of them say they are unlikely to quit.
This group should have accurate information about e-cigarettes as it might encourage them to stop.
He suggested that there should be strict laws governing the minimum age for selling as well as quality controls of the products themselves to make sure that e-cigarettes sold here meet international standards.