Women & Tobacco - Thailand

submitted (May 2002) by Kobkul Srivongcharoen
SEA Alliance Support
Action on Smoking and Health Foundation

Tobacco advertising is prohibited in Thailand under the 1992 Tobacco Products Control Act. Despite this however tobacco companies continue to advertise including Point of Sale Advertising, Indirect Advertising, Sponsorship and so on. Luckily, we do not have any significant advertising target on women in Thailand.

Thailand's tobacco control laws and active tobacco control movement have helped to keep women's smoking prevalence down in contrast to other countries in Asia. However the increasing presence of the transnational tobacco companies in Thailand and the influence having on the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly is already seeing an impact on smoking rates amongst young women. Results from the focus group discussion taken in 2000 has shown that young Thai women are attracted to western cigarette brands especially to Marlboro and also menthol and 'light' cigarettes. Young women feel that imported cigarettes are more sophisticated and 'upper class' than local cigarettes. There are some statements shown below:

"Young women said that they preferred 'light' cigarettes as it was 'easier to smoke.' This was another reason for their preference to foreign cigarettes." - Sang Duen Suwanratsamee, Womens Project Coordinator, ASH Thailand

However we are so happy to tell that our Thai society still do not accept the image of women smoking as a majority stated that when they went to pubs and drank alcohol they smoked but that they would not smoke on the street as other people would stare. Many of the young women said that people associated smoking by women with prostitution.

Though the number of women smokers are not much different and do not increase in each year but we are concerned about future rises of women's smoking. We know that Thai women are a largely untapped market to the tobacco industry. In order to foster the traditional non-smoking values of Thai women the "New-generation Women Don't Smoke" programme was set up in 1995. It aims to counter the tobacco companies efforts to get women to take up smoking. The project focuses on the effects of smoking on beauty and on childrens' health and promotes the view that smart women don't smoke. Our campaign is aimed at keeping Thai women's smoking prevalence low.

For this year, the domestic figures reveal that the number of Thai women smokers aged 15-20 yrs has increased from 0.3% to 0.6% in the last 2 years. Also focus group interviews indicated that most women started smoking in their teens. Therefore ASH Thailand is currently doing to fight the increase in young Thai women taking up smoking. On 27 April 2002 we staged a special event as part of our Smart Women Don't Smoke campaign. The event was targeted towards young Thai women and promoted the message that women who smoke are unattractive; that 'smoking destroys your charm'.
The event was held in Siam Square, a fashionable area very popular with Thai teenagers. It received coverage in 4 Thai language newspapers and in the editorial of the English language newspaper The Nation (attached). The event was also shown on TV.

Many outstanding people attended; Dr. Prakit Vateesatokit, the Miss Thailand Universe team, popular television stars, models and singers all took part in the opening ceremony, helping to crush a giant smoking cigarette (see below).

The opening ceremony was followed by on-stage interviews with the celebrities about their views on women smoking and smoking in general. The event finished with 2 music performances; the 1st by a popular female pop duo and the 2nd by male singer. Between interviews and performances audience members were invited to participate in games to win anti-smoking t-shirts.

In parallel with this event, ASH is launching a series of advertisements aimed at young women which will be aired on TV, radio and be displayed at Skytrain stations, in magazines and online at popular Thai website: http://www.eotoday.com/eocitizen/eocity/fightclub/ index.php?id=nosmoke
We hope that these activities will help to slow down the increase in the number of Thai women taking up smoking and this project will play a large part in motivating the public, especially the young women, to quit and refrain from smoking.