Anti-smoking groups oppose big tobacco event planned in November

Anti-smoking groups hit out yesterday at news that the tobacco industry plans to stage a major conference in Bangkok, saying the move would have an adverse impact on efforts to limit smoking.
Action Smoking and Health Foundation and its allies said they opposed Tabinfo Asia 2009 being held in Thailand.

“We should not be silent over this event as they [the tobacco industry] will be doing something bad for our country,” secretary general of the Association, Dr Prakit Watheesathokkij said. “We need to disclose what they will doing here.”

He spoke at a seminar titled “Warning about new threats from the tobacco industry”, held by the Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre yesterday (and today) in Bangkok.

Tabinfo Asia 2009 is the tobacco industry’s biggest event. It will be held at Impact Arena Exhibition Centre in Nonthaburi from November 11 to 13. Over 2,000 people from 100 tobacco companies are due to attend.

Asia and Australia have 57 per cent of the international tobacco market. This year’s event will highlight how to do business in countries where ads for tobacco products are banned. Attendees will also discuss new tactics and new innovations to develop a nicotine delivery system, artificial flavouring and strategies to create a “society” of smokers and people doing business online via Twitter.

Prakit said: “Even though they do not target general people to attend the event, these are the methods they are trying to use to inform the public that cigarettes are general products which can be shown at the exhibition. Indeed, this product kills over five million people around the world per year.”

He said tobacco companies would also display their new cigarette packs and allow those who go to smoke inside the exhibition hall, despite the fact Thai law banned the display of cigarettes in all kind of places and only allowed people to smoke in specific areas.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, signed by 168 countries and legally binding in 165 countries, also prohibits governments and officials around the world which sign the convention from being involved in activities organised by tobacco companies, as it could cause conflicts of interest and signal an acceptance to tobacco industries.

Prakit also warned Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, which will have staff at the event, to stop the organiser holding the exhibition as multinational tobacco companies could attend and it could boost smoking.

The event was held in Brazil last year and met with protests by local people, which caused the organiser to scale down plans from a big exhibition to a small-scale function instead.

About 30,000 Malaysians protested at the event when it was held there in 2005.

“We will not stop them from organising such an event but we can tell the public about the new tactics they will use to try to lure people to smoke cigarettes,” Prakit said.

Anti-smoking groups had set up a special committee to watch and monitor moves by the tobacco industry.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said he would ask the Department of Disease Control to team up with the Department of Excise to study the event to see if it will violate Thai laws.

© Copyright: Nationmultimedia

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