Daily Archives: March 9, 2005

Thai Cigarette Packs

Thailand is probably one of the leading countries that is campaigning against cigarette smoking. For a while now, cigarette advertising on television hasn’t been allowed. Also, pictures of people smoking cannot be shown. This gets a bit annoying sometimes when you are watching American sitcoms or movies as they blur out half the screen. Even cartoons like The Simpsons get censored when Bart’s aunts smoke. Sometimes I think our local cable operator goes a bit too far on purpose. They even censor the anti-smoking adverts!

Just over a year ago, the government banned smoking in air-conditioned stores and restaurants, schools, hospitals, clinics and government offices. They have also tried to stop children buying cigarettes in shops. In the picture above you can see there is a warning that you have to be 18 or more in order to buy cigarettes. However, from what I have seen this is not very effective. But, things might change soon which hopefully will put teenagers off smoking.

Up to now, cigarette packs have had to show one of the following warnings in Thai on the front of the pack:

1. Smoking is hazardous to health.
2. Smoking causes lung cancer and pulmonary diseases.
3. Smoking causes cardiovascular diseases.
4. Smoking is harmful to fetus.
5. Respect the rights of others by not smoking in public.
6. Quit smoking reduces the risks of dangerous diseases.
7. Quit smoking for the sake of your loved ones.

This has now just changed to graphic warnings that must take up 50% of the pack. These show pictures such as: rotten teeth, a father smoking in front of his baby, close up of diseased lungs, a woman with a premature old face and a dying man. In all there are six to collect. It will be interesting to see if this has any affect.

Click here to see pictures of all packs (courtesy of Thailand Health Promotion Institute).

QUICK FACTS: The National Statistics Bureau said about 21.6 million Thais aged 11 years and up smoke cigarettes every day. The number of smokers, especially teenagers, has also risen rapidly over the past few years. About 125 people in Thailand die each day due to smoking-related diseases. More than five million Thais suffer from lung cancer, heart disease, and the after-effects of strokes.

A Thai business abroad

The way things are done in Thailand is very Thai – and quite rightly so. Far be it for me, as a foreigner, to ethnocentrically dictate what is and is not ‘good’ for Thailand. I do have my opinions (who doesn’t).

‘Corruption’, as we call it here in the UK or ‘playing the game’ as it might be seen in parts of Thailand, is often a natural part of Thai business. It’s a very natural part of Russian business. It’s a very natural part of UK business too, in somewhat different ways. Many bloggers talk about corruption in Thailand. I have a particular example here.

There is a business operating here that doesn’t legally employ its workers. “Hold the press!” I hear you scream. Admittedly, this isn’t as rare as it should be. However, this particular example highlights several things about these Thais working and living in England.

The business in question gets visas for Thais to visit the UK, under pretences of tourism, when in fact the Thais in question go straight to work. The ’employees’ are not afforded anything like British minimum wage, yet what they earn is a small fortune back home. The business also ’employs’ several Thais who live in the UK already. They pay cash, do not deduct tax despite heavily taxed prices on their products to the end (British) customer and lie to both their staff, the customers and the I.R. (tax office).

Recently they were investigated for fraud, apparantly not for the first time. Knowing full well the possible ramifications if caught, the owners (a Thai husband and wife) instructed, no – ordered, their Thai staff to lie to the Tax inspector should he ask them any questions. They were given precise sentences to repeat in answer to specific questions. They were instructed how much to say they had been paid and when they had worked. They were told to lie to the tax men. Not a good idea in England.

If ever found out, these girls and boys will face prosecution and possible deportation. Many are not yet finished with their degree or whatever else they had originally come to the UK for. Would the owners of the business put themselves in such a position on behalf of their staff? I, for one, think not.

There are many issues at play here. One could appeal to Buddhism, to the ethics of business or indeed to simple honesty. Any way you spin it, it is exactly this kind of thing that fuels the ever-heated debates over immigration and the general place of foreigners in the UK. I would certainly hope that this particular family never complain about the farang influence in Thailand, for they certainly have no right to such a gripe.

/with all errors.