Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Opinion or tobacco industry misrepresentation?

Oct 18. 2018
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The Nation opinion piece, “Why Thailand risks getting its fingers burned in combating rise in smoking” by economist Sinclair Davidson (October 16) suggests Thailand will get burned by adopting plain packaging.

In his alternative reality, tobacco use has increased in Thailand because of 85-per-cent pack warnings and will further increase with plain packaging. However, the primary incongruity in his argument is seen in the fact that the number of smokers in Thailand is at its lowest ever according to 2017 statistics, and that both pictorial pack warnings and plain packaging have been lauded by the World Health Organisation and other health policy experts as effective.

While Mr Davidson asserts that “education about health effects tends to discourage older smokers while cost and taxation tend to discourage youth from taking up the habit”, he rails against pack warnings and plain packaging, whose explicit purpose is to educate people on the dangers of tobacco use and not distract them with shiny objects such as brand pack descriptors, designs and colours. Similarly, he suggests that “cost and taxation” measures, though effective with youth, are really only hurting tobacco control by promoting smuggling. His contradictions abound.

At the core of this piece is the notion that tobacco control should stick to demand concerns and not address supply-side considerations. As a tobacco industry apologist he would prefer that no one point out that tobacco sales mean tobacco-related deaths. It is convenient for him to ignore the tobacco industry’s promotion of “slow motion suicide” to its customers. In truth, only those persuaded to light up actually get burned.

Stephen Hamann

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