THAILAND has been ranked as the worst place in the world for vapers.
Holidaymakers to the country have been warned that flouting its draconian laws which ban the import, export, sale and possession of e-cigarettes could see them end up with big fines or even jail time.
Australia has been ranked the second worst at this year’s Global Forum on Nicotine which saw 500 delegates from 60 countries vote, while India came in third.
Members of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations were each allowed to nominate up to five countries in the worst category and five in the best from a list of the world’s 100 most populated countries.
From 36 members, an overwhelming 33 nominated Thailand as having the most unreasonable vaping regulations while 18 nominated Australia and 16 chose India.
In Thailand, the strict vaping rules have been in place since November 2014.
Anyone found breaking the law will have their items confiscated as well as face a hefty fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted.
Last December two young adults in Pathum Thani made the headlines for being arrested and then jailed for selling vaping products via Facebook. It sparked a petition urging law makers to review the ban whilst referring to regulations across Europe where e-cigarettes are legal. Many vaping tourists are also known to fall foul of the law at police roadblocks where the officers search vehicles for e-cigarettes and issue easy on-the-spot fines.
Asa Ace Saligupta, who runs the End Cigarette Smoke Thailand consumer group, said: “Thailand has a draconian approach with tourists as well as local people regularly getting arrested for vaping. Police often search vehicles at roadblocks for e-cigarettes and then use them to extract fines.
“This is not just terrible for Thai smokers who want to quit but also makes it a country to avoid for the tens of millions of tourists and business people around the world who vape.”
Meanwhile, the UK was voted the most progressive for its vaping regulations with 32 nominations, followed by Germany with 25 and France with 23.
As well as Public Health England declaring in a report earlier this year that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking, the UK’s pharmacy minister Steve Brine, had said that he would consider using cigarette packets to promote e-cigarettes to help more smokers in the country give up.
Prof. Gerry Stimson of the UK charity New Nicotine Alliance said: “The United Kingdom government has had the most remarkable change of heart on vaping. Four years ago, it was trying to ban all e-cigarettes on the market. Today, the UK has three million vapers – and this is accelerating the decline in smoking among the British.”
CEO of Public Health England Duncan Selbie said: “It’s now hard to believe that back in 1974 almost half of adults smoked. But now an end really is in sight and we have a real opportunity to virtually eliminate all the harm, misery and death caused by smoking.”