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Thailand: Proposed Law to Place Restrictions on Tobacco Sales

(May 28, 2015) On May 26, 2015, Thailand’s Cabinet approved a draft law on tobacco control; the legislation was first sent to the Cabinet by the Ministry of Public Health in December 2014. The provisions include raising the minimum age for the purchase of cigarettes from 18 to 20 and banning the sale of individual cigarettes, thus requiring sales by the pack. The law would also outlaw tobacco companies, whether manufacturers or importers, from sponsoring social activities and from using models to promote their products. (Patsara Jikkham & Saritdet Marukatat, Bill to Raise Minimum Age of Cigarette Buyers to 20; Sale of Individual Smokes to Be Outlawed, BANGKOK POST (May 26, 2015); Tobacco Products Control Act, BE 2535 (Mar. 29, 1992), § 4, THAILAND’S TOBACCO CONTROL LAWS, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance website [scroll down to locate text of Act].)

In addition, the proposed law would define tobacco products broadly, to encompass any item containing nicotine, including hookahs and electronic cigarettes. (Public Health Min to Propose Stricter Anti-Smoking Law, THAI VISA FORUM (Dec. 19. 2014).)

According to Major General Sansern Kaewkumnerd, a government spokesman, the draft legislation will now go to the Council of State for review to determine whether the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization have been met. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) Thailand is a participant in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, having signed the document in 2003 and ratified it the following year. (Status as at: 26-05-2015 05:03:16 EDT, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (May 21, 2003), UNITED NATIONS TREATY COLLECTION.) The Council of State, a department under Thailand’s Prime Minister, produces codified versions of laws and regulations, in addition to advising state offices. (Council of State Thailand Website, PRACTICAL LAW (last visited May 28, 2015).)

Smoking is a major health problem in Thailand, with the average current age of addiction to tobacco at 17.4 years of age, just below the legal age to purchase cigarettes. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) The Ministry of Public Health has noted that 70% of those who start smoking at a young age are never able to quit the habit and those who do eventually stop smoking can do so only after decades of addiction. (Public Health Min to Propose Stricter Anti-Smoking Law, supra.)

Reaction to the Draft Law

The Executive Secretary of the non-governmental organization Action on Smoking and Health Foundation of Thailand, Dr. Prakit Vateesatokij, expressed the opinion that the new law would deter young people from smoking. (Jikkham & Marukatat, supra.) Somsri Pausawasdi, the head of the National Alliance for a Tobacco-Free Thailand, approved of the Cabinet action, stating “[t]his is an important present that the prime minister has given to the youth and Thai people … .” (Id.)