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Thailand: winning battles, but the war's far from over
  1. P Vateesatokit,
  2. B Hughes,
  3. B Ritthphakdee
  1. Action on Smoking and Health Foundation/Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
  1. B Ritthphakdeeashthai{at}asiaaccess.net.th

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Despite the financial constraints put on anti-smoking activities, and the considerable government revenue generated by the state owned Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (TTM) and from tobacco import duties tobacco, Thailand has been able to restrain the tobacco industry's activities and maintain falling smoking prevalence (table1). Restrictive legislation enacted in 1992 banned tobacco advertising in all media and smoking in a large number of public places. Taxation is high at 71.5% of retail price, and both public knowledge of tobacco issues and support for tobacco control efforts are high. The Thai government has an office on smoking and there is an active non-government sector that has successfully broadened the anti-smoking movement to many different groups in the community.

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Table 1

Smoking prevalence in Thailand, 1986 to 1999 (age 11+ years)

Looking back

NATIONALISATION OF THE TTM AND BANNING FOREIGN IMPORTS

Shortly before the second world war, British American Tobacco (BAT) began operating in Thailand, competing against small local tobacco companies. This period saw an increase in cigarette production throughout the region as new manufacturing techniques made cigarette production cheaper and faster. BAT was forced to sell its factory to the Thai government during the war, following the Japanese occupation. After the acquisition, the Thai government created the TTM and placed it under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance. In 1943, the Tobacco Monopoly Act was enacted making cigarette production a state monopoly, and thus the TTM became the sole legal manufacturer and importer of commercial cigarettes in Thailand. This situation continued until 1991.

During more than 30 years of operation, the TTM was not much more than a small inefficient government department which produced low quality cigarettes but did nothing to try and raise demand. Despite no identifiable anti-tobacco movement, Thailand experienced declining smoking prevalence throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

RISE OF TRANSNATIONAL TOBACCO COMPANIES

The 1980s altered what may have seen a gradual disappearance of smoking …

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