Thailand’s health ministry is fighting legal challenges over its plans to introduce larger health warnings on tobacco packaging.
Big tobacco companies are taking the health authority to court over the plans to expand warnings. The rate of lung cancer is increasing in Thailand for both sexes, and is fast becoming the leading cause of death for men.
The Thai Ministry of Public Health plans to increase the size of the graphic warnings on tobacco packets from 55% of the packaging to 85%.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), supports the new policy, and believes graphic warnings on packaging is one of the most effective measures for reducing smoking rates.
The new regulations were due to come into effect on October 2, but tobacco giant, Philip Morris, successfully prevented their introduction, albeit temporarily.
Bangkok-based Philip Morris spokeswoman Onanong Pratakphiriya told the Associated Press such warning labels were not effective. She also said the regulation was “illogical,” since it exempts cheap, roll-your-own cigarettes, which she said accounts for almost half the tobacco consumed in Thailand.
Onanong also cited a recent government survey which showed the health risks of smoking tobacco were “universally known” in Thailand.
The tobacco companies are arguing that the warnings undermine the use of trademarks to differentiate products in the industry. They also claim the health ministry has overstepped its legal authority and didn’t consult retailers and manufacturers.
A final ruling on the larger health warnings is expected at the end of the year, or in early 2014.