| BANGKOK, June 27
BANGKOK, June 27 Cigarette packs in Thailand
will be 85 percent covered with graphic health warnings and a
quit smoking hotline telephone number by September, the public
health ministry said on Friday.
The ministry issued its announcement a day after a Thai
court gave the green light for the new regulation and days after
regional neighbour Indonesia, one of the world's biggest tobacco
markets, began printing graphic health warnings on packets.
Narong Sahametapat, permanent secretary for public health,
said the regulation would help reduce the number of smokers in
the Southeast Asian nation and deter others from starting.
"This will help our campaign to lower the number of smokers
in Thailand. We will start checking tobacco retailers from
September onwards to make sure they comply," Narong told
International tobacco companies last year sued the Thai
government after the health ministry ordered an increased in the
size of the warnings to 85 percent of packs from 55 percent.
A court temporarily suspended the measure but, on Thursday,
the Supreme Administrative Court ruled it could take effect.
Lung cancer rates are on the rise for both men and women.
The disease has become a leading cause of death in Thailand,
where a packet of cigarettes costs, on average, less than the
equivalent of $3.
Opponents of the regulation say the warnings are ineffective
and Thais are aware of the health risks associated with smoking.
Australia introduced strict packaging rules in 2012, with a
combination of photos of smoker illnesses overlaid on plain
brown packs with no branding or logos. The country is being
closely watched for signs of success as others, including
Britain and New Zealand, explore similar measures.
Tobacco use is among the leading preventable causes of death
in the world, according to the World Health Organization,
killing nearly 6 million people every year.
($1 = 32.4600 Thai baht)
(Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Ron