Smoking rate on the rise despite govt efforts

Smoking rate on the rise despite govt efforts

The number of smokers is on the rise, despite campaigns urging people to stop smoking. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
The number of smokers is on the rise, despite campaigns urging people to stop smoking. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

More than 70,000 Thais die from smoking-related illnesses each year, and the number of new smokers — some as young as 10 years old — is on the rise, despite the country's decades-long effort to curb smoking rates, which was initiated by the late Privy Council president, Prem Tinsulanonda.

"Subsequent measures to increase the tax on cigarette purchases and scare prospective smokers by using graphic images of medical conditions caused by smoking have earned Thailand an applause from the World Health Organisation," said Daniel Kertesz, WHO's representative to Thailand, who added that he remains "saddened" by the statistics.

"Just one puff of smoke is enough to expose a person to several hundreds toxic chemicals that damage the lungs," said Disease Control Department chief Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said, as the government prepares to launch fresh campaigns for the World's No-Tobacco Day, which falls on Friday.

Up to 49% of the 72,656 patients who suffered from smoking-related lung diseases died prematurely in 2017, said Roengruedi Pathanwanit, a lecturer for Ramathibodi Hospital's Faculty of Medicine, Roengruedi Pathanwanit.

"Smoking-related problems cause more than 220 billion baht in economic losses each year — three times the amount received from taxes on tobacco products, which stands at about 68 billion baht," she said.

More worrying is the result a study that found that about 10% of young smokers began smoking at the age of 10, said Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn.

Thailand’s first efforts to curb smoking can be traced to 31 years ago, when the then-premier Prem Tinsulanonda instructed the Public Health Ministry to draft a masterplan on tobacco control.

The country had no legal curbs on smoking until Gen Prem issued an order to “prohibit smoking in the Government House,” said Prakit Vathesatogkit, secretary-general of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation.

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