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Thailand: ‘Greatest Tobacco Show’ has a nasty shock

Tabinfo Asia 2009, the tobacco industry exhibition and conference held in Bangkok last November and billed as the ‘Greatest Tobacco Industry Show in Asia’, was dealt a severe blow by Thai health advocates, further consolidating Thailand's position as a world leader in tobacco control. Tabinfo Asia's promotions had invited participants to ‘look forward to a warm welcome’ in the ‘Land of Smiles’, promising that the Thai organisers could ‘make problems disappear’ and ensure a successful event. They were wrong. This Tabinfo Asia had unprecedented outcomes that will have made tobacco executives do anything but smile.

The tobacco industry is rapidly expanding its markets in Asia and Tabinfo Asia was all about how to expedite that growth and hook more Asians. Its intentions were clearly stated by the organisers: ‘If you are involved in the tobacco industry in the Asia Pacific area, it is an event as an exhibitor or visitor that you simply must not miss. It is your chance to go face to face with the major players in one of the world's largest and fastest growing tobacco markets’.

Thailand has been diligent in implementing the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and it was a bad mistake for the industry to use the country to plan the promotion of tobacco even more aggressively in Asia. The previous Tabinfo 2005, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, resulted in sleeker tobacco promotions, skinny and flavoured cigarettes and more attractive, colourful packaging designed for Asian women. Currently, around 125 million adults smoke in the 10 nations of Southeast Asia comprising the ASEAN region. Some 2.4 million die annually from tobacco-related diseases in Asia and if successful, Tabinfo 2009 would only worsen the …

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