News / Asia

Thailand’s Health Ministry Battles Big Tobacco Over Graphic Health Warnings

FILE - The warning signs are printed on the cigarette packets on sale in Bangkok, Thailand.FILE - The warning signs are printed on the cigarette packets on sale in Bangkok, Thailand.
x
FILE - The warning signs are printed on the cigarette packets on sale in Bangkok, Thailand.
FILE - The warning signs are printed on the cigarette packets on sale in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ron Corben
Major international tobacco companies are mounting a legal challenge to Thai health ministry plans to increase graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging. The court battle has wide implications for Thai health policy measures seeking to reduce smoking and combat cancer.

In Thailand lung cancer rates are rising for both sexes and becoming a leading cause of death in men.  In a policy backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Thailand's Ministry of Public Health is planning to increase the size of anti-smoking advertisements on cigarette packaging from 55 percent of the package, to 85 percent.  
 
The WHO believes the large graphic pictures of sick people suffering from the effects of smoking are one of the most effective measures to reduce smoking.
 
But new regulations that were due to come into effect on October 2 were blocked by international tobacco companies led by Philip Morris with a legal injunction.
 
The companies argue the ministry exceeded its legal authority and failed to consult thousands of retailers and manufacturers. They also claim the larger warnings undermine the use of trade marks to differentiate products in the market.
 
Pokpong Srisanit, a Thammasat University law professor, says the challenge to the health ministry by the companies is a first in Thailand.  “When the Ministry of Public Health announce a new regulation normally the big company and the small tobacco company obey the regulation. Now, the case of the 85 per cent pictorial health warning the three big companies sued the Ministry of Public Health -- just one [the first] case in the history of tobacco control in Thailand," he stated.
 
Thailand is adopting measures set out by the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which supports the use of health warnings on packaging to deter smokers.
 
The WHO said it is backing the Thai Government, and warnings on packaging are considered highly effective measures to reduce tobacco use.
 
International tobacco company, Philip Morris, argues that further regulations on the health effects of its products are unnecessary as the risks associated with smoking are already widely known.
 
Medical doctor, Prakit Vachesatogkit, an adviser to the Tobacco Control Division of the Ministry of Public Health, says Thailand is following policies similar to those in Australia, Uruguay and Sri Lanka in recent years.
 
"The net effect of the graphic warning is it will eventually decrease the smoking, it will make the smoker start to quit. It is not just on graphic warnings but other tobacco control measures such as the banning of smoking [in places], [and] price increases. So it's a combination of effects," said Vachesatogkit. "It will not just decrease the lung cancer it will also decrease other diseases as a result of decreased smoking."
 
Australian lawyer and member of the Federal government's expert advisory group on measures to reduce smoking, Jonathan Liberman, said the case is about governments ability to regulate industry in the interest of public health. 

"Countries have to defend these measures against these legal claims and legal threats that are brought by the tobacco industry. It tries to intimidate governments and sue them, rather than just allow them to implement the measures that will reduce death and disease and enormous social and economic costs. The government's can't be intimidated there's too much at stake," said Liberman.
 
Both the companies and the Thai health ministry are presenting their cases before the Administrative Court. A ruling by the court is expected late this year or in early 2014.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid