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In November 2004, Thailand became the 36th country to ratify the WHO FCTC. Less than a month later, Thais were warned that smoking among young people is becoming a growing problem that has far reaching consequences. King Bhumipol Adulyadet, in his regular birthday address and audience stated, “…youth smoke more than in the past, especially women….smoking causes damage to many parts of the body: ears, eyes, brain and heart….smoking can shorten your life a lot.”
The king is highly revered by Thais, and his address has resulted in a number of new actions and tobacco control policies. The actions include banning smoking in public parks, making the possession by minors of tobacco products illegal, and the introduction of new picture pack warnings covering the upper 50% of both large faces of cigarette packs (see Tobacco Control 2005;14:149). In addition, the point of purchase advertising ban is to be enforced in such a way that the many displays at supermarkets and retail shops will be removed.
Other anticipated policy moves include raising the tax on tobacco from 75% to 80%, and making nicotine gum and patches available over the counter, not just by prescription. In February, a national tobacco control conference was held in Bangkok with over 700 participants, and a national centre for tobacco control is being established through a US$2.4 million project of the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, which receives its funds directly from an extra 2% tax on the tobacco and alcohol industries.
In addition to the new measures, Thailand is working cooperatively with other Asian countries in developing policy and funding mechanisms necessary for progress on compliance with provisions of the FCTC. At the Sixth Global Conference on Health Promotion held in Bangkok in August, sponsored by WHO, health promotion experts from more than 100 countries learned first hand about Thailand’s health promotion efforts, including its tobacco control programmes.
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