Thailand - hosting major tobacco promotion event in November 2009..

August 25. 2009 - The credibility of Thailand's anti-smoking policy is being questioned after it was revealed the country is hosting a major tobacco promotional event in November. Anti-smoking activists are strongly opposing the staging of Tabinfo Asia 2009, which will be held from Nov 11 to 13 at Impact Muang Thong Thani.

They say it makes a mockery of the nation's anti-smoking stand. They said the event was a fresh effort by multinational tobacco companies to expand their business in the region, which is seen as the world's most lucrative market for tobacco consumption. "The tobacco industry is acting like cigarettes are normal and that the Tabinfo Asia 2009 event is just an ordinary trade expo," said Prakit Vathesatogkit, secretary of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation (ASH Thailand). Dr Prakit said staging the promotion was in contravention of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention of Tobacco Control in protecting public policy from tobacco industry influence.

"Smoking kills over 5 million people each year. "We cannot just keep silent on this matter. We have to expose that the tobacco industry is challenging Thailand to host an event aimed at harming global health."

A network of anti-tobacco advocates in Thailand would hold activities to condemn an event which they say is aimed at directly and indirectly influencing the country's policy on tobacco control.

He urged government agencies - particularly the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly - to follow the WHO pact. Thailand adopted the treaty, which requires restrictions on all forms of tobacco advertising, trade, sponsorship and promotion, in addition to protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, effective taxation policy, pictorial health warnings on packaging and an end to duty-free sales of tobacco products.

The Public Health Ministry had to look into possible violation of the Thai Tobacco Act at the event as the law prohibited the presence of cigarette packs in retail establishments.

US-based Tobacco Reporter magazine, the organiser, said the reason for holding the event was "to learn how the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly manages to survive under heavy legal restrictions". The organiser also emphasised that Tabinfo Asia 2009 was just another congress focusing on a business meeting with no public admittance. But Dr Prakit said the event aimed to draw more than 3,000 delegates and tobacco traders to brainstorm ways to market their tobacco products in Asia, particularly aimed at young smokers, via new media such as Twitter.

Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Thai Health Promotion Institute: "It is the tobacco industry's new threat [to society], especially to developing countries which are not equipped to fight against huge sums of money and various tricky strategies." said

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said he had assigned the Disease Control Department to look into legal details regarding exhibitors.

Reference: Policy denounced as 'smoke and mirrors' by APIRADEE TREERUTKUARKUL, Bangkok Post, 8/25/2009.

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