THAILAND - The Public Health Ministry is seeking legal action to control the illegal import of liquid nicotine in the form of shisha sticks, known locally as "baraku", which seem to be very popular among celebrities.
It is believed the fancy cigarettes have several addictive substances.
Dr Nopporn Cheanklin, deputy chief of the Disease Control Department (DCD), said his agency had asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to list liquid nicotine as a controlled product under the Psychotropic Substances Act, which requires importers to first register it with the FDA before selling in the market.
"This way we will know the number of importers and the amount of imported liquid nicotine that will be sold in the market," he said.
He was speaking at the national academic conference entitled "Tricky Marketing and Promotion of Tobacco Companies" hosted by the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre.
Since the electronic shisha sticks are also widely sold online, the DCD will also ask the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to monitor and take legal action against the online vendors.
A study by Mahidol University's Public Health Faculty reported that up to 630 vendors were selling this product via websites and social-networking sites like Facebook.
Another study conducted by the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre showed that more than 50 per cent of the 492 surveyed online vendors had created an online community to lure customers to buy their products. The centre also found that some of these vendors had created smart-phone applications to promote their products directly to customers.
They also use sales representatives, known as cigarette girls, as a key marketing approach, Naresuan University Pharmaceutical Sciences lecturer Piyarak Nimpitakpong said.
Nat-anong Anantawong, an official from Bangkok's Disease Control Division 1, said she had learned that these fancy cigarettes were becoming popular among teenagers and were being sold outside schools and department stores. She said some of these vendors also hired people to pretend to be students and walk around schools to lure other youngsters into buying these fancy cigarettes. "Warn your kids against buying these cigarettes. They are very dangerous as they contain more than 20 addictive substances," she said.