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Thailand Bans Smoking in Its Schools - 2003-05-30

Thailand has banned teachers, staff, and parents from smoking in or around the nation's 2000 schools as part of a tough anti-smoking campaign.

Parents will no longer be able to sneak a quick puff while waiting to pick up their children at school and teachers will no longer be able to light up between classes. Violators will be fined a hefty $46 (2,000 baht), which is about one and a half week's salary for the average wage earner.

A spokeswoman for the Public Health Ministry, Nitaya Mahaphol, said the anti-smoking campaign is targeting schools in order to stop children from starting smoking in the first place. "Teachers are closest and they are very influential in trying to be a sort of role model for the children," she said.

The new regulations are part of a wider government campaign to stop the public from smoking.

Smoking is common in Thailand and smoking-related illnesses are the fourth leading cause of death after HIV/AIDS, accidents, and tuberculosis.

Local actors have also bee recruited to encourage children not to smoke during activities planned for Saturday, this year's international Anti-Smoking Day.

Mrs. Nitaya said movies have a significant impact on kids. "And most of the people who are smoking in the films normally are people that children look up to," she said.

The Health Ministry plans to include graphic pictures on cigarette packages of organs damaged by smoking along with harsher text warnings.

The government already digitally alters people smoking cigarettes on TV. Starting in November the government will ban smoking on public transport, department stores, internet cafes, places of religious worship, beauty parlors, and public toilets.