Plain packaging works

The article ''Thailand's draft tobacco consumption control act: Plain packaging and beyond'' by Alan Adcock published on Oct 19, 2012, in the Business section presented several false claims about plain packaging.

First, it claimed that graphic health warnings are not effective. This is not true based on many studies, like the findings from a 2012 study in Canada that graphic health warnings show ''a statistically significant effect on smoking prevalence and quit attempts''.

In another 2012 study from Thailand: ''The new Thai pictorial health warning labels have led to a greater impact than the text-only warning labels, and refreshing the pictorial images may have helped sustain effects. This finding provides a strong support for introducing pictorial warning labels in low- and middle-income countries where the benefits may be even greater given the lower literacy rates and generally lower levels of readily available health information on the risks of smoking.''

Second, the article stated that plain packaging violates rights of property, including trademark, and that it ''cancels'' trademark ownership. In fact, the Australian High Court found no constitutional infringement on trademark rights, no taking of trademark, but only restriction of its use. Restricting use of a trademark is not taking or cancelling a trademark as the Australian court found.

Third, the author notes that international trade agreements require unconditional protection of intellectual property rights, including all uses of a trademark. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) provides consideration of justifiable national measures for restriction of trade, and countries that disagree can bring a WTO trade challenge.

In the case of Australia, trade challenges have been brought by countries with little or no trade with Australia, making it clear that this action is being driven by corporate tobacco interests. Given the weakness of these challenges, Australia is not concerned, and views this effort as but another example of tobacco industry intimidation.

The author also maintains plain packaging would increase counterfeiting and illicit trade. Illicit and counterfeit trade is a specific enforcement matter that can be dealt with successfully through measures developed, and to be adopted this November in South Korea by the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international tobacco control treaty that Thailand has ratified.

And last, the article stated that plain packaging is extreme because there are legal and economic objections to it. Overall, Thailand needs to take a positive, strong approach to meeting its tobacco control obligations under the FCTC and not be cowed by lawyers of the tobacco industry who try to scare and intimidate Thailand, as they did with Australia, with imaginary trade threats that they raise to interfere with health measures and benefits for Thais. Most importantly, research shows that plain packaging is less appealing to youth and young adults that the tobacco industry targets in marketing their products.

Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University

Payouts are not justice

In yesterday's column on Tak Bai, Khun Veera wrote that Malay Muslims still feel strongly that justice is elusive even though victims' families have received compensation. Compensation and justice are quite different things. The families will not feel they have received justice until those responsible for the deaths of their relatives are brought to a court of law.


Bush to blame for deficit

People who blame Barack Obama for the US deficit quickly forget that 90% of our present deficit came from a previous administration whose economic policies consisted of going to war.


Train fares neglected

Re: ''SRT plans to seek approval for 10% fare hike'', (BP, Oct 24).

I almost fell off my chair reading this report. I could not believe the SRT fare structure has been left untouched for 28 years. That governments had avoided hikes fearing the impact on passengers was ridiculous and lacking common sense. All the relevant politicians and officials who neglected the train fares, which has brought the SRT to its present miserable financial condition, must be held responsible. The National Audit Office should also be blamed for their failure to take action over such an imbalance in the SRT's financial status.


Thais no saints either

Writer John Arnone's letter lambasting ''Western culture'' (I'm sure directed at the US), was quite interesting. It demonstrated a compartmentalised mentality.

For him to be ''Americaphobic'' is one thing, but to impose his personal conception of Western moral values on his daughter who wants to study in the US is downright silly. If Mr Arnone is worried about her morality and safety, he should keep her off the streets and buses in Bangkok where shootouts between rival student groups kill innocent people as well.

As for other moral values in the West, well, let's hope when she marries, she does not go through several husbands, as it appears that Thai men simply up and disappear when they are bored with their wives or cannot cope with their responsibilities. I hope these corrupt Thai moral values never make their way to the West.


Culture a hodgepodge

Obviously Postbag does not like an endless to-and-fro between its letter writers. But John Arnone's latest contribution to the cultural debate needs further definition.

Mr Arnone says that the letters from Alan Reeder and myself are not pertinent to the subject of his original letter.

Well I am sorry, but they are highly pertinent, Mr Arnone.

In your original letter you said, ''...there is no Western culture any longer''.

It is that statement with which I took issue, not your right to educate your children where you see fit.

Culture is culture is culture, whether you deem it good, bad or indifferent, and it is omnipresent in all societies. It is an integral part of the definition of a society.

Some would define culture as grand opera, symphony concerts and the latest avante-garde interpretation of Hamlet. Others are happy in a culture of motor bikes, leather jackets, tattoos, body piercing and easy girls. Each to his own.

But now I must question your latest utterance: ''Thai culture... was designed by Thais exclusively, not a committee''. The overwhelming historical evidence is that many other cultures, peoples, nations, religions and philosophies contributed to what is 21st century Thai culture, and that eclectic influence goes back more than two thousand years. And it includes Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, and all the latest Western pop songs and films rife in Thailand today. Where is the exclusivity in that?


A world of weaknesses

John Arnone's concluding statement in his letter in Postbag, Oct 25, that ''Asia for all its flaws is the last remaining continent to be evolving culturally in a positive manner'', leaves one searching for words. Thailand alone is most definitely not evolving in a positive manner.

When a government minister passes addresses and telephone numbers of court judges to members of the red shirts so they can intimidate the judges into making legal decisions that favour them; when the government is remotely controlled by a convicted criminal; where corruption is endemic, even in schools; and where Buddhism has been reduced to idolatry with the five precepts chanted in temples but ignored in practice, is this positive evolution?

I would suggest Mr Arnone is quite alone in his perception of Thailand, where teachers and children are in fear of their lives when going to school as they are in Pakistan.

The writer says Thai culture was designed exclusively by Thais, not a committee.

Yes it was, but whilst in a permanent state of xenophobia and under the grip of a phantom democracy.

The rest of Asia seems to fare little better. Malaysia and Indonesia are controlled by Islam and China is still a totalitarian country run by a communist regime. North Korea is controlled by a corrupt family where people are starving because its huge military force consumes the bulk of the food. Laos is still desperately poor with little change in sight. Indian corruption shows little sign of abating, and Tibet and Nepal are continually under threat from insurgents. At least there would seem to be some positive changes taking place in Myanmar.

In the West the gun toting, drug taking and alcohol consumption are out of control, and on these issues, Islam does make a valid criticism. But at the same time, there is some form of democracy and the populace does enjoy considerable freedom of expression and movement.

The fact is that the whole world, whether in Asia or in the West, is suffering from the worst weaknesses of human nature: greed, selfishness, lying, dishonesty and megalomania. But some cultures and places are worse than others. Mr Arnone does seem to have ''a bee in his bonnet about the West'', but should realise that moral education starts at home, whether in the West or the East.

To generalise between two continents is not sensible. There are pockets of good in the whole world if one knows where to find them but they will not be discovered with dogma. One should remain objective and open-minded.


Amnesia on US economy

Although not a US citizen, like many others I have a keen interest in the forthcoming election and feel the need to reply to Paul Kokoski's diatribe (BP, Oct 25).

Discounting the comments regarding this week's foreign policy debate Mr Kokoski must indeed have a very short memory on the economic front. One only has to go back a few short years to understand that the wreckers of the US economy were actually removed from office in the election of 2008. Yes, I'm talking about George W Bush and his cohorts!

If it had not been for the various aid packages adopted by Mr Obama the US economy would most likely be in the same predicament as Europe's and not making the recovery that it obviously is, albeit at a moderate pace despite the relentless obstructionism of House Republicans.

Was it not a leading Republican who stated upon gaining a majority in the 2010 elections that the sole aim of his party would be to ensure that Barack Obama would become a one-term president? Not a word about improving the lot of the average American.

I would suggest that Mr Kokoski re-examines the facts of events prior to 2008 and then lay the economic blame where it quite obviously belongs and not be so obsessed with war games.


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