Thailand will not be legalising e-cigarettes despite reports that vaping products would be taxed.

The news will be a blow to many of the 38 million tourists from around who flock to the country every year.

Two conflicting reports circulated in the media this week, one claiming that vape products would be taxed and legalised, the other warning visitors that they could face hefty fines and a jail term of up to 10 years if caught with vape devices.

The confusion was cleared up by excise department chief, Pachorn Anantasin, who said:

“The Excise Department did not say they WILL be taxing vaping, as reported incorrectly originally by several media sources.

“The average individual caught with vaping equipment or vaping in public has reported to the Excise Department and their Embassies fines between 20,000 to 50,000 baht.

“The possibility of opening up and applying a tax on vaping is there, IF the Ministry of Commerce and Health can come to an agreement on importation of vaping.”

Regulations banning smoking in public places were announced earlier this week. Tobacco companies will also be prohibited from using terms like ‘low tar’ and ‘sexy’ on cigarette packets.

The Thai government is currently preparing its tobacco plain packaging regulations.

Following the WHO’s decision to uphold Australia’s plain packaging law earlier this year, Dr Ulysses Dorotheo, executive director of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), said:

“The tobacco industry has a history of using the threat of legal challenges to intimidate governments, particularly in low and middle-income countries that have limited resources to fight the industry in court, but the recent WTO ruling in favour of Australia and this latest announcement by Singapore should encourage more countries to adopt and implement this life-saving measure contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”

Major tobacco companies have a significant presence and influence in South-East Asia, where tobacco use is a serious problem.

Indonesia has the highest smoking rate in the region with 76 percent of adult males reporting using tobacco in 2017. In Thailand, the figure is 41 percent.