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July 14th, 2008:

WHO Praises Thai Smoking Campaign

Bangkok Post – July 14, 2008 – Apiradee Treerutkuarkul

Thailand’s comprehensive efforts to control tobacco use have been praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which plans to use Thai policy as a model for improved anti-smoking campaigns in low and middle-income countries.

Thailand and Brazil are two countries being studied regarding bans on tobacco consumption and advertising, said Armando Peruga, a coordinator for the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.

The WHO launched its “Mpower” project to help countries ratifying the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) achieve their anti-smoking schemes.

Very few countries have been able to put into practice tobacco bans mainly due to a lack of capacity building.

The treaty, adopted by all 195 countries, requires restrictions on all forms of tobacco advertising, trade, sponsorship and promotion, in addition to protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, effective taxation policies, pictorial health warnings on packaging and an end to duty free sales of tobacco products.

Member countries have to enforce controls against the promotion of tobacco products within five years after the FCTC took effect in 2005.

The planned study on the Thai anti-smoking effort was unveiled after a team of WHO experts met Thai officials during a three-day visit, which ended on Wednesday.

The experts discussed the pros and cons of the anti-smoking strategy.

The study will focus on six main topics – the epidemic smoking situation, tax policy, smoke-free environments, treatment, package and labelling, and a ban on advertisements.

A report on Thailand’s work is scheduled to be released in November.

The WHO finished its survey in Brazil last May and plans to study Turkey’s anti-smoking efforts next year.

Dr Peruga said he was hopeful that a review would enhance the anti-tobacco campaign in Thailand and other countries since smoking is not only a health problem but also an economic and social problem.

Thailand introduced a smoking ban in indoor areas of bars and pubs last year.