1,000 at Pattaya IUHPE back Public Health Ministry in battle against ‘big tobacco’

Friday, 06 September 2013 From Issue Vol. XXI No. 36 By  Warunya Thongrod

About 1,000 international health professionals attending the 21st International Union for Health Promotion and Education conference in Pattaya signed a petition supporting the Public Health Ministry in its fight to impose stronger warning labels on cigarettes over objections from the tobacco industry.

IUHPE President Michael Sparks told the media Aug. 28 he supported a regulation originally set to take effect Oct. 2 that would increase the percentage of a cigarette pack covered by graphic pectoral warnings from 55 percent to 85 percent. The Central Administrative Court suspended imposition the regulation Aug. 23 after tobacco giant Philip Morris sued the ministry June 26. Philip Morris is seeking abolition of the entire cigarette-warnings law and requested an injunction against the new regulation until its case is decided.

IUHPE President Michael Sparks (center, with large white ID badge), poses with representatives from health promotion organizations after having signed the petition to increase hazardous warnings on cigarette packs.IUHPE President Michael Sparks (center, with large white ID badge), poses with representatives from health promotion organizations after having signed the petition to increase hazardous warnings on cigarette packs.

Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong said Aug. 29 that the ministry would appeal the injunction before the Sept. 22 deadline.

The Aug. 25-29 IUHPE meeting at the Peach Convention Center in Jomtien Beach set out to examine the best investments for health, the different views that shape health policy, investors in health-promotion systems, challenges to developing and implementing health policies, and innovations transforming health promotion.

Sparks called Thailand’s cigarette warnings some of the strongest in the world and backed the ministry’s appeal, saying the regulation is an important and efficient investment in public health that sets a good example to other countries.

“To promote good health for citizens in Thailand, it is the duty of public agencies to issue controls, particularly on cigarette consumption,” he said. “If measures are implemented, they will be considered as a successful investment since citizens will face fewer hazards from cigarettes. The law that is being pushed by Ministry of Public Health is consistent with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that has been signed on by more 177 countries.

“Many countries in the world have already implemented such guidelines by increasing the warning-picture percentage to 87.5 percent,” noted Dr. Prakit Vathesatogkit of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation. “The purpose of this law is, of course, to reduce the rate of smoking amongst citizens including youths. And if we accomplish this, we will be another country that has made some progress empowering citizens to reduce smoking.”

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