Reporter: Handoyo | Editor: Yoyok
KONTAN.CO.ID - JAKARTA. The Indonesian Personal Vaporizer Association (APVI) reminds tourists from Indonesia who use alternative tobacco products to be careful when visiting Thailand. This warning is extended following the arrest of Cecilia Cornu, 31, a female tourist from France by local police after she was caught carrying electric cigarettes.
Aryo Andrianto, APVI Chairman, reiterated that the detention of tourists has set a bad precedent for the tourism sector in Asia. Travelers will certainly reconsider their decision to take a vacation in a country that prohibits electronic cigarettes.
"This can be a lesson for Indonesia too. If vape is banned just like in Thailand, the tourism sector will suffer from some serious repercussions," Aryo told reporters in Jakarta on Friday (15/3).
Take for example Bali tourism. Aryo explained that vape users in Bali are mostly foreign tourists, especially Australians. So if Indonesia also imposes a ban on electric cigarettes, foreign tourist visits to Bali might be significantly affected.
Fortunately, the existence of alternative tobacco products in Indonesia has been recognized by the state as goods subject to excise. Nevertheless, there are restrictions on e-cigarettes that only allow them to be used by those over the age of 18 years.
Excise imposition on electric cigarettes also proves to provide a better income for the country. Aryo said, from November 2018 to the end of January 2019, e-cigarette excise brought in IDR 200 billion to the state coffers. "Finance Minister Sri Mulyani also expressed appreciation for alternative tobacco products as a new industry that the government can support and cultivate," Aryo added.
According to Aryo, cases of arrests of tourists in Thailand should provide a valuable lesson for other countries in implementing rules regarding alternative tobacco products. If not managed properly, regulatory backlash has the potential to harm the tourism sector which has been one of the mainstays of state revenues. Regulations on alternative tobacco products should not lead to absolute prohibitions.
"Alternative tobacco products that have a lower risk should be efficiently regulated. Their positive attributes should be introduced to the public," Aryo said.
Countries that prohibit alternative tobacco have imposed regulations without conducting an exhaustive study beforehand. In fact, nearly all international research indicated that alternative tobacco products have fewer risks than conventional cigarettes.
Case in point, on January 30, 2019, Cecilia Cornu, a French tourist was arrested by Police in Phuket, Thailand while on vacation with her fiancé because they were caught carrying electric cigarettes. As a result, she was held under custody at the Karon Police Station for four days and three nights with narrow cells and unhygienic food. Ironically, the police demanded a bribe of 40,000 baht - equivalent to IDR 18 million - that they said would guarantee the release of Cecilia.
Chiang Rai Times wrote, this case received strong reactions from local vapor communities. Maris Karanyawat, representative of Thailand's End Cigarette Smoke group even stressed that he would ask Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to lift the vaping ban in the country.
"The news is damaging the country's image as a tourist destination. This is the result of a ban on electric cigarettes that causes confusion in law enforcement," said Maris.
He said the group had urged the Department of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Commerce to immediately find appropriate regulations to replace the electric cigarette ban that had been in force since 2014.
Thailand is a country that ardently opposes the existence of e-cigarettes and vape. Offenders must also be prepared to face penalties based on notice from the Ministry of Commerce and instructions from the Consumer Protection Board.
The case caused an uproar among several countries, prompting some to issue travel warnings for travelers looking to visit Thailand. The said countries include Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Russia.