Thailand has been facing a significant challenge in reducing smoking rates and curbing the harmful effects of smoking on public health. The country has a large number of smokers, and the smoking rate has not decreased over ten years. While other countries and leading public health agencies around the world have accepted and embraced the Harm Reduction tools, such as vaping and oral tobacco to help reduce the harm of smoking, Thailand still has some of the strictest laws for anyone caught vaping, with possessing vapes leading to large fines and even jail time.
Harm Reduction Measures Suggested by the Committee on Public Health
The vaping ban in the country has further complicated the situation, causing problems such as the lack of clarity in the law, unaligned interpretations of the law, and black market trading. However, there is finally some hope as the Committee on Public Health suggests vaping regulation and upgrading related measures to international standards.
Dr Ekkapob Pianpises, a former MP of Chiang Rai province and spokesman of the Committee on Public Health, recently 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 suggests that the government lift the ban on vapes and apply Harm Reduction measures along with current tobacco control policies.
Good Regulation on Harm Reduction Products: A Lesson from Sweden
Thailand is not alone in the struggle in reducing smoking rates. Many countries across the world have the same goal. Some countries have done a better job than others, but Sweden stands out as an exceptional example. Sweden’s achievement of becoming the first smoke-free country in the world is an inspiring fact that has caught the attention of public health experts worldwide. As a result to progressive regulations on snus and vaping, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU and is the only country on track to achieve the EU’s smoke free-goal. In the last decade the smoking rate in Sweden declined by 55% and smoking-related deaths are 22% lower in Sweden than the EU average.
Vaping is permitted in Sweden and it is widely used as a smoking cessation tool together with the smokeless tobacco product – snus. The Swedish Model encourages the use of vaping or snus as less harmful alternatives to smoking. Vape use and sale is completly legal and vaping devices can be purchased without a prescription. A variety of vaping flavours, a key component for those who switch to quit cigarettes, are also available.
The Swedish experience is proof that good regulation on Tobacco Harm Reduction products and incentivizing smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives is the only effective way to reduce smoking rates, and consequently smoking-related illnesses. Thailand and other countries with high smoking-related mortality rates can learn a lot from Sweden’s success.
Benefits of Legalizing Vaping: A Safer Environment for Everyone
As WVA we strongly believe that ending the ban on vaping products and endorsing the conversion of current adult smokers to less harmful alternatives must be the main focus of Thailand’s tobacco control strategy. We wholeheartedly praise the Committee on Public Health for taking a significant step towards protecting public health by suggesting lifting the ban.
By ending the ban, the government could ensure that the products used by vapers are safe and of high quality. The move will not only benefit current vapers but will also encourage smokers to switch to vaping, which is 95% less harmful alternative to smoking. The legalisation of vaping will also reduce the exposure of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, creating a healthier environment for everyone.
If Thailand wants to beat smoking and decrease smoking rates, they should look to the Swedes for inspiration and adopt their strategies. The decision to progressively regulate vaping will be a crucial step in ensuring the well-being of the Thai people. According to the report, if the government considers the committee’s report and applies its suggestions and guidelines immediately, this will reduce smoking-related deaths and save approximately 21 400 lives.
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