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THURSDAY, December 07, 2023

Committee on Public Health suggests e-cigarette regulation, upgrading related measures to international standards

Committee on Public Health suggests e-cigarette regulation, upgrading related measures to international standards
THURSDAY, March 16, 2023

The move aims to help reduce deaths by 21,400 and public health expenditure of more than 31.1 billion baht

Dr Ekkapob Pianpises, or Dr Eak, unveiled a report of the sub-committee on the Study of Impacts on Health and Monitoring the Enforcement of Public Health Related Laws under the Committee on Public Health. The report points out that the e-cigarette ban is ineffective; instead, it has led to issues in terms of the clarity of the law, which has caused unaligned interpretations of the law for relevant agencies, unfair treatment towards e-cigarette users and problems of corruption while being unable to reduce the smoking rate or prevent the sale of products to children and young people. The report suggests that the government lift the ban on e-cigarettes and apply Harm Reduction measures along with current tobacco control policies.

Committee on Public Health suggests e-cigarette regulation, upgrading related measures to international standards

Dr Ekkapob, former MP of Chiang Rai province and spokesman of the Committee on Public Health, House of Representatives, told the press about the publication from the Public Health sub-committee on tobacco and e-cigarette control, stating: “The subcommittee deems that the government focus on solving tobacco-related problems and reducing the smoking rate in Thailand as soon as possible. However, current guidelines to help reduce the number of smokers in Thailand lack efficiency. The subcommittee, therefore, agrees that the government should consider introducing Harm Reduction measures to support the current tobacco control policies by lifting the ban on the importation of e-cigarettes and properly regulate these products. Several developed countries and leading public health agencies around the world such as the US FDA, the Health Development Agency (UK), Cancer Research UK, the New Zealand government, Greece and many other countries have accepted and adopted Harm Reduction guidelines to help reduce the harm of tobacco on consumers.”

Committee on Public Health suggests e-cigarette regulation, upgrading related measures to international standards

According to data from the 2021 Health Behavior Survey of the National Statistical Office, it was found that Thailand has a total of approximately 9.9 million smokers (17.4%) and incurred a large number of patients and smoking-related deaths. However, Thailand's smoking rate has not decreased significantly or has only slightly decreased compared to 2007, when Thailand had 10.8 million smokers. The e-cigarette ban also allows easy access for children and young people due to a lack of control and age restrictions, and also creates circumstances for the unfair arrest of e-cigarette users and underground trading, causing the government to lose revenue from excise and other relevant taxes.

Dr Eak continued: “Lifting the ban on e-cigarettes is not difficult and can be done right away as we can regulate e-cigarettes through existing laws i.e. the Excise Tax Act B.E. 2560 (2017) and the Tobacco Products Control Act B.E. 2560 (2017). However, there are objections to e-cigarette regulation due to the conflicts of interest of some policymakers who are also involved in anti-smoking NGOs. The government should review the positions of the members of the National Tobacco Control Board, especially certain experts.”

“Some experts have a conflict of duties. Despite this, they have been part of the Thai delegation in the meetings of the WHO FCTC; they have presented policies and approved documents without any approval of the Cabinet or the National Assembly while all of that should be a collaboration between the relevant Thai agencies such as the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Finance etc. Therefore, the government should review the makeup of the Thai delegation before attending the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Panama for Thailand's opportunity to upgrade tobacco control measures to be on par with international standards instead of being stuck in outdated traditional approaches.”

“This report has been conducted with prudent consideration of aspects including health, and economic and social losses in addition to law enforcement and taking into account the benefits both to smokers and non-smokers as well as the protection of children and young people. In conducting this report, more than 100 people representing 30 groups/agencies (including those that support alternative products and those that are anti-smoking) were invited to the meetings to share academic data. The groups invited were a mix of representatives of e-cigarette users, tobacco farmers, the National Tobacco Products Control Board, physicians from the Royal College of Physicians, ThaiHealth, government agencies such as the Department of Disease Control, Excise Department, Customs Department, Tobacco Authority of Thailand, Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Royal Thai Police, and Office of the Attorney General. Representatives from the UK Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and Public Health England participated in the meeting and provided academic data. All of this effort helped create impartial content and conclusions in the report, considering all opinions from all stakeholders and it is believed that the report will help improve the smoking control policy of our country. When the new government is elected to continue with all related work, it will be able to consider applying suggestions and guidelines based on this report immediately. It is believed that such guidelines will reduce deaths by approximately 21,400 and public health expenses by more than 31.1 billion baht as well as help generate additional excise tax revenue of not less than 1 billion baht.”

The Committee on Public Health has recently submitted a report to the relevant government agencies and it is observable that Thailand is one out of only 30+ countries where e-cigarettes remain prohibited, such as India, Singapore and Hong Kong, all of which have faced problems of smuggling and the use of e-cigarettes despite being illegal products.