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Thailand - Pioneer in Tobacco Control (19 May 2004)

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According to the World Health Organisation, there are over 1.1 billion smokers around the world, with most of them living in developing nations. There is no surprise, as the tobacco companies, facing severe attacks in developed countries in Europe and the United States, are exploring the vast markets in Asia. In most Asian countries, with the few exception of Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand, smoking legislation is one of the laxest in the world. In what sense does Thailand as a developing nation deserve the reputation of being the model of anti-smoking in the region, on a par with advanced economies of Singapore and Hong Kong? What are the secret of its success?Anti-smoking campaign in Thailand is mainly the work of non-governmental organisations, or NGOs. Thanks to the efforts of several prominent ex-officio campaigners, tobacco regulations in Thailand have been implemented smoothly and successfully in spite of frequent changes in the country ’ s leadership. These heroes are well-respected academics and former health officials who know the secret language of dealing with statesmen and government officials. It is this knowledge that makes way for a successful anti-smoking movement in the Asian country.Thailand has adopted one of the toughest tobacco legislations in the world. Its law covers a wide area, namely, control over tobacco products and their advertisements, restriction against smoking in public areas, high tobacco tax rate and publicity. A by-law passed last November increased the number of no-smoking areas to 19. In particular, one of the aspects where Thailand has outperformed Hong Kong is the ban prohibiting smoking in air-conditioned restaurants.Educational programmes are held by NGOs and government from time to time. Public and media figures are invited to talk about the health hazard of smoking. The ‘ Thai Women Don ’ t Smoke Campaign ’ has successfully kept the proportion of smoking female at a low level of 2.5%. Meanwhile, the ‘ No Smoking in Temple ’ movement was launched to tackle the unusually high number of smoking monks. No only were the priests be advised to quit the vice of lighting up, worshippers were also told not to donate cigarettes as offerings.While the anti-smoking campaign has been very effective in Thailand, the country ’ s NGOs opine that much have to be done as far as law enforcement and regulatory mechanism are concerned. The tobacco companies are keen at hunting legal loopholes that can expand sales volume. Although there is a 20% decrease as compared with the 1980s in smoking population among adults, the number of young smokers has been on the rise. Among the 61 million people in Thailand, 11 million are smokers. Smoking-related problems cause 40,000 lives annually. The war against tobacco is bound to be a protracted battle in Thailand.

Program: 
Smoke Free Planet
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Station: 
RTHK
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