Thailand’s biggest improvement from 2017 is there was no incident of the government accepting or endorsing any offer of assistance from or collaboration with the tobacco industry in implementing health policies.
In July 2017, the Tobacco Products Control Act 2017 came into force. This new law bans all tobacco industry-related CSR activities, as required under FCTC Article 13 and Article 5.3 guidelines. Previously, the ban applied only to Thai Tobacco Monopoly (TTM), but the other transnational tobacco companies could conduct CSR activities. The TTM is seen as a government agency and conducted some CSR activities attended by several officials.
No benefits were given to the tobacco industry. However, there is still a tax exemption for native tobacco leaves.
International travelers are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes, or no more than 500 grams of smoking tobacco into Thailand.
Since the government owns the TTM, there were regular quarterly meetings between TTM and senior officers from the Ministry of Finance. TTM involved government officials in their smuggling control program.
While minutes were taken during meetings between the government and the industry, these are not publicly accessible. At times, high-level officials also attend these meetings.
Retired senior government officials have regularly been appointed as TTM board members. Current government officials such as a senior officer from the Excise Department and the Ministry of Finance are TTM board members. Since the TTM is a state enterprise, the appointment is seen as normal.
The new Tobacco Products Control Act in Section 40 requires the manufacturer or importer of tobacco products to report the volume of production or importation, market share, marketing expense, income and expense in their annual report, audited financial statement and any other information for the benefits of tobacco products control to the Committee. The rules and procedures as stipulated in the Ministerial Regulations are being drawn up.
Currently there are guidelines for the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) when interacting with the tobacco industry. Other ministries can establish their respective regulations, following MOPH and the Office of the Civil Service Commission which have regulations which prohibit civil servants from interacting with the tobacco industry.
While there is no contribution from the tobacco industry offered to the government, there is no restriction on technical assistance or study visits.
As Thailand makes progress in implementing Article 5.3 guidelines, there is room for improvement.
- Strictly enforce the ban on tobacco-related CSR activities under the new tobacco control law. Ensure there are no loopholes which the tobacco industry can exploit.
- Ensure retired senior government officials are not immediately appointed to the tobacco industry.
- The implementation regulations of the new tobacco control law must be drawn up as soon as possible to protect government officials from tobacco industry interference.
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