Thailand 1st in Asia to adopt plain packaging
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday commended Thailand's stronger tobacco control measures, as the kingdom emerges as the first country in Asia and the first low and middle-income country to adopt plain packaging for all tobacco products.
"Thailand's bold steps against tobacco -- the single most important cause of preventable deaths worldwide -- are commendable and reflect the country's earnest efforts to promote the health and well-being of its people," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director of WHO Southeast Asia, congratulating Thailand on its legislation.
The new legislative announcement on plain packaging is the government's latest effort to curb smoking and adds to the 2017 Tobacco Control Act, which mandates a minimum age of 20 for tobacco purchases, bans single stick sales and bans tobacco advertisements, promotions and sponsorship, according to the WHO.
Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names displayed in a standard colour and font style.
As per Thailand's new legislation, by September 2019, all tobacco products will have plain packaging. Thailand already has graphic health warnings covering 85% of tobacco product packaging.
The introduction of plain packaging is expected to further boost the country's tobacco control efforts.
The prevalence of tobacco use is high in Thailand, with over 11 million smokers.
An estimated one out of every five Thai adults smokes.
Nearly 50% of men between 35 and 54 years old smoke.
Of particular concern is the persistently high rate of tobacco use among young people -- one out of every six Thais between the ages of 13 and 17 uses tobacco.
Globally, tobacco kills more than 7 million people every year.
Tobacco use is a key risk factor for major noncommunicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, such as emphysema, and diabetes.
Non-communicable diseases account for over 70% of all deaths in Thailand.
Tobacco is not just a health problem, but also a socioeconomic issue.
Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of healthcare and hinder economic development.
Dr Singh said WHO remains committed to supporting Thailand and other nations to protect people from tobacco.