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Sixty thousand people exercising together against smoking at the Great Lawn near the Grand Palace in Bangkok make an impressive sight. Collecting the signatures of nine million of the country’s 11.3 million smokers on a petition to quit or reduce smoking is a remarkable feat. But impressive as these accomplishments are, the greatest achievement in Thailand last November was getting the estimated 500 000 retailers who sell manufactured cigarettes all over Thailand to keep them out of sight (see Tobacco Control 2005;14:367).
Thai law prohibits advertising, but when it was passed in 1992 the tobacco companies almost immediately redefined it by exploiting various point of purchase mechanisms. By 2000, a study of point of purchase advertising showed an average of seven point of purchase elements at each retail shop observed. Today, due to the public health ministry’s efforts, these elements, including the walls of cigarette packs behind cash registers, have all been removed and all tobacco goods placed under the counter or in special storage closets until requested by a customer.
These accomplishments are only the more visible of the many legal and health promotion actions that are moving Thailand to lower and lower smoking rates. The overall movement against smoking is gaining momentum because of new restrictions on smoking in public places, and efforts by health professionals to be sure that smokers are provided with both advice and nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine gum at pharmacies, where Thai people often go for medical advice and common medicines. Not only is smoking becoming unpopular, but healthy attitudes and activities are increasing. Thailand is aware of its opportunity and is determined that these positive trends will continue.