Fears raised over smoking at home
Thai smokers are taking to puffing away in the comfort of their own homes as smoking in public places becomes increasingly restrictive, raising fears of a spike in health problems linked to second-hand smoke.
Prakit Vatheesatogkit, executive director of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation, said almost half of Thai smokers are now lighting up indoors as bans take effect in most bars, restaurants and workplaces.
"We cannot issue a law or regulation banning smoking at home, but we can create public awareness of the dangers of smoking at home. Children are particularly at risk," Dr Prakit said.
According to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), 45.7% of smokers in Thailand smoke at home.
He said that Thailand has performed well in enforcing the smoking ban in public places, but has pushed an estimated 5.5 million people to smoke at home.
According to research, 300 out of 700 one-year-olds were found to have toxic substances from cigarettes in their urine as a result of parents smoking at home.
Bungon Ritthiphakdee, executive director of SEATCA, said that cigarettes kill around six million people a year worldwide, which includes more than 600,000 non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke.
She said that the Asean region is home to 121 million adult smokers, adding that those countries signed up to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) need to step up efforts to tackle the problem.
Jose Enrique Garcia, a senator from the Philippines and the country's key campaigner against smoking, said that smoking at home is a challenge because it is beyond the reach of law enforcement.
However, he said public smoking bans should lead to an overall decline in the number of people indulging in the habit, which means the rate of people smoking at home would also drop.
He expressed confidence that a stronger and more active campaign against smoking will encourage people to think twice about smoking at home. Under the FCTC's regulation, countries are required to take state action to protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke.