Vaping in Myanmar will either vanish or move underground after the government approved a complete ban.
The bill to ban e-cigarettes and shisha won cabinet approval and unanimous support in the lower house five months after it was proposed by by San Shwe Win, a physician representing Yegyi in Ayeyarwady region.
“Today, e-cigarettes and shishas are easily accessible at most bars, nightclubs, [karaoke clubs] and other modern tea shops, restaurants and stores in Myanmar – for all ages and genders. It has become even more popular, and that’s a threat for all the young people out there,” San Shwe Win said at a government meeting.
Vaping has been popular in Myanmar since around 2017, where it has been falsely promoted as a means to quit smoking tobacco. Vape shops have proliferated in Yangon, and smoking pens have become stylish accessories.
While the extent of their harm to human health is still being studied, e-cigarettes are comprised of nicotine extracted from tobacco, flavorings and other chemicals that turn aerosol when inhaled and contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. Shishas also burn nicotine coals, which is smoked through water.
Last month, a Myanmar Custom Department petition to approve the import of e-cigarettes was rejected by the Ministry of Health and Sports.
Still, some complained that the economic effects are coming at the wrong time.
“F&B businesses will suffer the most since it earns a lot of money,” one Facebook user wrote on a viral post about the government move.
The usage and import of e-cigarettes has been banned in 46 nations, include by five ASEAN member nations. A ban doesn’t necessarily mean they will go away – in neighboring Thailand, they remain in widespread use despite being banned six years ago.
“I have no idea if they will take it seriously. As of now, I still see many businesses selling it online and even at the shops and vendors like ours. Since it came illegally and you can’t track where it came from, I don’t bother to backup my business”, one vendor at a Yangon shopping mall pop-up store said.
Myint U, NLD representative for Thanatpin’s Bago region, said it was a good move for public health.
“Smoking e-cigarettes can cause cancer, pneumonia, epilepsy and other diseases due to the use of tobacco. Hence, Myanmar should halt all the usage of e-cigarettes and its accessories like all those other nations,” he said.
This article, Vaping in Myanmar is now illegal – but will that stop anyone?, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.