Thailand: tobacco industry takes legal action to block public health measures

In a story familiar to Health Ministries who act in accordance with the requirements of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to protect the health of their citizens, the Thai Ministry of Health is facing legal action from the tobacco industry against a policy to increase the size of cigarette pack health warnings to 85%.

Japan Tobacco filed a lawsuit on 19 June in the Administrative Court. The Thai Tobacco Trade Association and Philip Morris (Thailand) are also intending to bring similar cases.

In a press conference on 25 June, Ms. Onanong Pratakphiriya, Manager Communications & External Affairs, Philip Morris (Thailand) Ltd said:

Given the negative impact that this policy will have on our trademarks and packaging, and the fact that the Ministry ignored our voice and the voices of thousands of retailers in enacting this rule, we have no choice but to ask the Court to intervene. Ultimately, this requirement is not about increasing the public’s awareness of the risks of smoking — which is universal. The Ministry exempts half of the tobacco products sold in Thailand from the new warning*. How does that make sense? In our view, this is a punitive measure. The Ministry should have listened to all sides — and respected the rule of law — before imposing an illogical requirement that will change the marketplace so significantly.”

It is noteworthy that by referring to the ‘negative impact’ of the policy, the tobacco industry is admitting it is likely to work as intended. Any negative impact on the tobacco industry is good news for public health.

Read more in this Bangkok Post article: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/356881/public-health-ministry-targeted-by-tobacco-firms

*Exempting half of tobacco products refers to separate regulations to be implemented for roll your own tobacco.

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