Consumers are being bombarded with commercials for cosmetic products that claim to make their skin whiter or smoother or reduce their waistlines dramatically in a short period of time.
But many people have discovered the hard way that the products do not work. Some have suffered severe skin irritation and allergies due to banned substances that in some cases have led to facial deformation.
Despite the Cosmetics Act of 1992, some producers, importers and retailers continue to violate the law.
But all this may become a thing of the past with an amendment to the law proposed by the Ministry of Public Health's Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The amendment calls for tougher penalties against manufacturers, importers and retailers of cosmetic products that break the law.
The maximum penalties for producers and importers of cosmetic products containing banned substances would be raised to five years' imprisonment and/or a fine of Bt500,000 (S$20,800).
Currently, the maximum penalties for such violations are one year in jail and/or a fine of Bt60,000.
The new legislation also calls for establishment of a high-powered National Cosmetics Committee to be chaired by the permanent secretary for public health. The panel would also include representatives from consumer protection groups and the cosmetics industry.
The committee would have the power to authorise registration of cosmetic products before they could be sold in the country, in line with the Asean Cosmetics Directive.
FDA deputy secretary-general Srinuan Korrakochakorn said yesterday that the law's main goal was to protect consumers against unscrupulous producers and importers of cosmetic products, as well as improve the quality of Thai-made cosmetic products for export.
She said existing law did not allow the FDA to regulate ads for cosmetic products. "The new law will allow stricter control of advertising," she said.
As for substandard cosmetic products sold at weekend markets, she said the authorities would find their producers and take legal action.
Dr Wanna Sriwiriyanupap, a Cosmetics Committee member, said the most common problems included the absence of the date of manufacture on the label, and the use of prohibited substances and ingredients such as |hydroquinone and mercury.
Foundation for Consumers executive member Suwanna Chitprapat said the label should include information on the dates of manufacture and expiry in Thai language and in a form that is clear and easy to read by all Thais.
Moreover, the cosmetic products to be registered with the FDA in the future should be required to have digital codes that would make searching for crucial information such as active ingredients more convenient and accurate.
-The Nation/Asia News Network