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GEG: We Will Face Same Thai Issues

LETTERS: The rakyat will no doubt be eager to see what new laws the current administration seeks to pass after the passage of the 2023 Budget.

One major controversy under its predecessor was the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill, or called the “Generational End Game (GEG)” clause in it. This would have banned the sale of cigarettes, tobacco and vape products to those born on Jan 1, 2007 and beyond.

Recent developments in Thailand might be of interest to proponents and opponents of the GEG.

Thailand was recently rocked by a bribery scandal implicating Taiwanese actress, Charlene, which involved, of all things, e-cigarettes.

She posted a TikTok video in January this year, alleging that a group of friends and her were stopped by Thai police for two hours during an early-hour roadblock in Bangkok on Jan 5.

She also claimed that the police planted a vape device on her and demanded a 27,000 baht (RM3,500) bribe in exchange for her release.

The police then released CCTV footage showing Charlene and her friends were held for only 47 minutes.

Things got murkier when “Sky”, a 29-year-old Singaporean man who was in the same vehicle, told the press that he paid the bribe after being threatened with jail time for carrying e-cigarettes.

He claimed that the three vaping devices seized by police belonged to him, not the actress.

Massage parlour tycoon and former politician Chuwit Kamolvisit entered the fray with a clip of Charlene’s friends bribing the police. Chuwit claimed that the police had deleted some of the footage to cover up the extortion.

Thailand has banned the import and sale of e-cigarettes, as well as the possession of vaping devices and vape liquids since 2014.

The ban was introduced by the Thai government for health reasons, as e-cigarettes were seen as the main factor in luring Thai youths into smoking.

Offenders can be fined up to 30,000 baht and sentenced to a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment. The law applies to Thais and foreigners.

Nonetheless, standard cigarettes are legal in Thailand and contribute a considerable amount of tax revenue for the government.

The incident has revived the debate on e-cigarettes in Thailand. The exiled former Thai premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, questioned the logic of jailing people up to seven years over such devices when Thailand has just legalised marijuana.

Thaksin said: “There is no proof vaping leads to second-hand or passive smokers dying, and e-cigarettes only undermine the interests of tobacco companies.”

Meanwhile, Chuwit recommended that the laws on the import, purchase and sale of e-cigarettes be amended to plug loopholes so that the government will be able to receive revenue from the e-cigarette industry with greater transparency.

Indeed, despite their illegal status in Thailand, e-cigarettes are widely available and explicitly promoted on social media platforms.

Malaysia will likely grapple with the same issues of enforcement and abuse that Thailand faced if we embark on the GEG.

What would likely be more productive and less harmful to people overall would be to regulate vape players.

Authorities should not treat e-cigarettes as contraband but rather as a healthier alternative to and means of quitting conventional cigarettes, and at the same time benefitting from an additional revenue stream.

Source: New Straits Times