Thai groups urge boycott, strict monitoring, of big tobacco convention in Thailand

Bangkok—04 November 2009—More than 50,000 people have signed on to a petition against TabinfoAsia 2009, a global tobacco industry exposition to be held in Thailand from 11-13 November 2009.

The Thai Network Against TabinfoAsia 2009 (TNAT 2009), a partnership of over 500 local and regional health related organizations, said the gathered signatures proves that Thailand should not welcome the congress of tobacco producers and marketers.

The anti-tobacco network is thus urging the Thai government to be more active in following the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the global treaty to which Thailand is a signatory, and which aims to curb tobacco use and its promotion. Article 5.3 of the WHO-FCTC, in particular, says that ‘In setting and implementing public health policies on to tobacco control, parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.’

TNAT 2009 Chairman, Dr. Hatai Chitanondh, stated that the tobacco industry is trying to expand its market in Asia, with new tactics and strategies that target the youth. He noted the tobacco industry’s peddling of new products such as flavored and smoke-less cigarettes, neither of which actually lessen the dangers posed by smoking. The TabinfoAsia tobacco expo itself, he added, is a marketing and promotion event that should not be tolerated by any country.

Dr. Hatai said: “Such behavior by the tobacco industry is directly challenging the international agreement of the WHO-FCTC.  The tobacco industry has been pushed out of the developed world, and now it is trying to exploit the developing world.  We are certain that it will try every trick in the bag to penetrate the Asian market”.

Dr. Jiraporn Limpananondh of the Pharmacology Network says events such as TabinfoAsia should be unacceptable, because through it the tobacco industry is trying to sell more products, which will cause tobacco-related deaths to rise.  He added that the tobacco industry has been promoting itself to youth through misleading “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) programs. 

Dr. Somsri Paosawas, called the holding of TabinfoAsia in Thailand “disturbing” given the health problems more smoking will aggravate in the country.

Dr. Churit Tengtrisorn, from the Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, said that the Ministry itself is against TabinfoAsia 2009, and the tobacco industry in general.  He said officials will be monitoring the TabinfoAsia 2009 very closely, and that legal action will taken against any violators of anti-tobacco promotion regulations. Smoking inside convention site, or any display of cigarettes packs as well as other tobacco products will be considered violations, he warned.

Prof. Prakit Vathesatogkit, Secretary General of ASH Thailand added that around 90% of the tobacco product retailers comply with the law, however another 10% continue to violate the law and try to display their product at the point of sale.  It is very likely that the tobacco industry is encouraging these retailers to continue to break the law.

Mr. Karoon Trakulpadethkrai, Laryngectomy Association in Thailand, lost his voice as a result from smoking cigarettes.  As a former smoker, he has experienced the danger of smoking and now dedicates all of his time working to make sure that Thai people do not walk in the same path.  He notes that each year, the association has around 100 new members. This year, however, the number of new members reached 100 as early as October.  This is an indication that more people are suffering from smoking. 

Ms. Pattida Kongsomboonchok, a high school student, says the youth is the primary target of the tobacco industry.  She said she finds it embarrassing that Thailand is allowing the tobacco industry to plot  their strategies to lure youth of the region into using their products.  “We have to tell our friends, parents about the danger of smoking and boycott TabinfoAsia 2009,” she said. 

Dr. Somchaichot Piyavatchwela, of  the Rural Doctors Foundation, said the Thai government and local authorities are obligated to follow the Article 5.3 of the FCTC and should not get involved with, or accept anything from, the tobacco industry. 

The TNAT 2009 groups submitted their petition against TabinfoAsia to Mr. Isara Sunthornwat, deputy secretary-general of the Prime Minister, and asked the government to boycott the TabinfoAsia 2009. 

In response, Mr. Isara said that the government is committed to protecting the people of Thailand.  In New York, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva received numerous complaints from the tobacco company about the lack of support from the Thai government, Mr. Isara noted.  But the Prime Minister stood firm and replied that out of respect for the law, the government will not allow anything to influence or harm the youth.  Mr. Isara added that the Prime Minister is trying to include the petition against Tabinfo Asia into the agenda of his cabinet meeting.  ENDS.

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