Bigger cigarette warnings possible

The Public Health Ministry is considering making the graphic warnings on cigarette packs even bigger to further curb smoking.

Ministry officials on Friday met with the Thailand Anti Tobacco Committee to discuss changes to existing regulations. One proposal is to increase the warning from 55% of the package's space to 85%.

The committee would return to discuss the issue further in the next two months, said Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong.

If the plan is approved, Thailand would have the world's largest cigarette warning graphics, surpassing Australia where they cover 82.5% of the space on packets.

However, Australia also is the only country in the world to eliminate brand names from cigarette packages entirely. Since Dec 1 last year, all cigarettes sold in the country come in the same plain brown packages. The only artwork is the health warning.

Dr Pradit said the larger warning labels would reduce the number of smokers. He added that the images would deliver 10 messages such as "Smoking can cause lung cancer" and "Smoke from cigarettes can kill children".

He said tobacco manufacturers also would be required to inform the ministry of their ingredients every three years. The ingredients will not be revealed to the public unless the information is required as evidence for certain cases.

About 13 million Thais above age 15 were cigarette smokers, an increase from 12.5 million in 2009, according to a survey last year by the ministry and the National Statistics Office.

The increase caught officials by surprise because anti-tobacco campaigns and legislation in Thailand had been seen as some of the most successful in the world over the past two decades.

Related search: smoking, cigarettes, Thailand, health warnings, anti-tobacco

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