Thailand - hand-rolled cigarettes more popular and other matters..

Thailand Coat-of-Arms;

November 10, 2009 - The number of tobacco smokers currently in Thailand has reached 14.3 million, the latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey revealed yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry is considering a proposal to the Finance Ministry to increase the tax level on hand-rolled cigarette products (RYO) after finding over 7.4 million people smoke this style of cigarette. The remainder smoke manufactured cigarettes.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey is a national household survey launched in February 2007. Sixteen countries, home to more than half the world's smokers and bearing the highest tobacco use, were involved in the study: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Thailand was the first country to complete and release its survey - conducted this year as a household poll of persons 15 and older by the Ministry of Public Health, Mahidol University and the National Statistical Office. Lakkhana Termsirikulchai, who led a survey team, said it found that of the 14.3 million people who smoked tobacco, 7.9 million chose manufactured cigarettes and the other half - 7.4 million - were hand-rolled cigarette smokers.

Only six out of every 10 smokers said they planned or are thinking about quitting, while five in 10 smokers had tried to quit in the last 12 months. The survey found that 3.3 million workers are exposed to tobacco smoke at the workplace and 20.5 million adults to tobacco smoke in their homes.

The survey found that 74.4 percent of adults noticed anti-cigarette smoking information on television. Only one in 10 adults were aware of cigarette marketing in stores where cigarettes are sold; seven in 10 smokers considered quitting because of warning labels; and 98.6 per cent of adults believed smoking causes serious illness.

Action Smoking and Health Foundation's secretary-general, Dr Prakit Watheesathokkij has expressed concern over the consumption of hand-rolled cigarettes as most people mistakenly believe smoking them is less dangerous than manufactured cigarettes. He said hand-rolled cigarettes also cause serious illness for smokers such as oral cancer and cancer of the oesophagus. In India, he added, about 100,000 died from smoking hand-rolled cigarettes each year.

He said most cigarette manufacturers are now producing more smokeless cigarettes after noting an increasing trend in smokeless tobacco use among teenagers worldwide.

To reduce the number of hand-rolled cigarette smokers, Prakit has asked the government to increase the tax level on hand-rolled cigarette products and collect tax excise to 70 percent of product price from the current rate.

Deputy Minister of Public Health Manit Nopamornbodee said he will consult with the Finance Ministry about increasing the tax level on hand-rolled cigarette products and ya nat - traditional medicine that contains hand-rolled cigarette products. "I will bring this issue to consultation with the Finance Ministry before implementing the regulation," Deputy Minister Manit Nopamornbodee said.

"We have to study its impact carefully on whether an increased tax level would reduce the amount of hand- rolled tobacco smokers or not," he added. He also instructed the Department of Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine of Public Health and the Department of Medical Science to conduct research into medicinal plants that help smokers to quit.

Meanwhile, Thai Network Against Tabinfo Asia 2009, led by Dr Hatai Chitanont, has submitted an open letter to Deputy Finance Minister,Prasit Pattaraprasit asking him to withdraw from the tobacco industry event he is due to open on Wednesday at Impact Arena Moung Thontani Exhibition Centre.

"Pradit must think carefully whether to participate, talking about a product that kills millions every year," he said. "Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has told Cabinet he will not allow government officials to be involved in the event."

He added that any government support for an event organised by the tobacco industry would be a violation by the Thai government of the UN's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Reference: Roll your own smokes popular but no safer, research finds
by Pongphon Sarnsamak, The Nation, 11-10/2009.

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