Tobacco industry and smokers face new measures

tobacco People under the age of 20 will be prohibited from purchasing cigarettes, while Tobacco manufacturers will only be allowed to import and sell fire-safe cigarettes once the Public Health Ministry amends the law and issues a ministerial regulation to control tobacco consumption.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said yesterday the ministry would amend the 1992 Tobacco Products Control Act and prohibit the sale of tobacco products to people under 20 and issue a regulation that manufacturers can only sell fire-safe cigarettes that cut down fire risks and exposure to second-hand smoke.

The announcement was made yesterday by Jurin after he chaired a meeting with the National Tobacco Control Committee. He said the panel had come up with resolutions to amend the 1992 Act as well as ministerial regulations to control tobacco consumption and marketing.

Under the 1992 Tobacco Products Control Act, the ministry will revise the definition of tobacco products to cover all products that contain nicotine such as drinking water, gel, chewing gum and electronic cigarettes. Previously, the definition under this act had only covered tobacco products.

The ministry will also revise the definition of “sell” in the law to cover words such as selling, giving, exchanging or distributing products containing nicotine for commercial benefit.

The ministry will revise the minimum legal age for purchasing cigarettes or tobacco products from 18 to 20 years old. Selling cigarettes to those under 20 via vending machines, selling tobacco products at a discount.

Under the revised law, cigarette brands will be banned from all kinds of advertising, except for live broadcasts from abroad. He said the revisions would be submitted to the Cabinet and House of Representatives for consideration and approval first.

Jurin added that the ministry would also issue a ministerial regulation to allow only fire-safe cigarettes to be sold in the country. This move, which comes after the ministry learned that conventional cigarettes increase the risk of igniting fires when left unattended, will take a year to come into force.

In addition, fire-safe cigarettes can reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. Fire-safe cigarettes are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes, if left unattended.

These cigarettes are produced by adding two bands or “speed bumps” to the cigarette paper in order to slow down the burn rate, and since cigarettes don’t burn for too long when left unattended, they can be prevented from igniting nearby materials or tinder.

A fire-safe cigarette goes out in less than two minutes, while the traditional cigarette burns all the way to the filter for 10 minutes.

Thailand will be the first Asian country to allow only fire-safe cigarettes to be sold in the nation. The practice was first enforced in the US, followed by Canada, Australia and Finland. The European Union is also considering enforcing the law.

“The ministerial regulation should be enforced within a year in Thailand,” Jurin said. Under the regulation, the ministry will also ban tobacco manufacturers from adding flavours or vitamins to cigarettes.

At present, up to 20 per cent of the Thai population smokes, most of them male. About 1 million of the smokers are between 15 and 24 years of age. The ministry expects these measures to reduce the number of smokers to 10 per cent of the population.

The tobacco industry in Thailand is estimated to be worth between Bt60 billion and Bt70 billion (S$2.6 billion – S$3 billion) a year, with the State Tobacco Monopoly having a market share of 75 per cent.

source: The Nation/Asia News Network

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