Thailand - more measures put in place to protect non-smokers..

July 2, 2010 - More measures have been put in place to protect non-smokers from tobacco-related health hazards at workplaces and in public areas.

Smoking is now prohibited at health-related venues, primary and secondary schools, public transport outlets and religious centres. Smoking will be allowed at government offices, universities, petrol stations and international airports, but Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisit said smoking areas must be located outside. (Thailand - number of no-smoking zones expanded..)

Thailand has about 13 million smokers - about one-fifth of the population. "We believe that non-smoking Thais will be protected from second-hand smoke [after the ban is enforced]," Mr Jurin said.

All public places are required to carry signs with the message "smoke-free area".

Smokers violating the ban and proprietors who do not put up warning signs could face a fine of up to 2,000 baht (61.75 USD). Those who do not provide smoking areas as required by the public health announcement could face a fine of up to 20,000 baht (617.485 USD), he said.

Operators of public places will have 180 days to prepare smoking areas in compliance with the legislation, said Churit Tengtrisorn, director of the Public Health Ministry's Office of Tobacco Control Committee. Hotlines at 1422 and 1555 will provide details of the new public health announcement, he said.

Public Health Ministry figures show tobacco kills 1.2 million people in Asia and 5.4 millions worldwide every year - more than HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The figures show up to half of all smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease such as lung or mouth cancer, stroke, or heart or lung disease. Second-hand smoke also harms those who are exposed to it, the ministry said.

Thailand has long been considered as exercising some of the toughest tobacco controls in the world. The country banned smoking inside cinemas and on public buses in 1976 and the number of areas where smoking is banned has increased steadily.

Graphic warnings on tobacco packages are among the mandatory measures.

Laws to prevent the advertising of cigarettes at shops and in the media have existed for more than a decade.

Reference: Smoke signals go up in lightsWriter: Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, Reporter, Bangkok Post, 6/29/2010.

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- Thailand is a member of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)..