13 June 2015
Public health volunteers across Thailand are joining a project to reduce the number of smokers, as a tribute to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on the occasion of her 60th birthday anniversary this year.
The project was launched jointly by the Ministry of Public Health and the National Alliance for Tobacco Free Thailand in a new anti-smoking campaign.
Public health volunteers are close to local villagers, as they help take care of their health. They have also played a role in assisting people to change their behavior in order to improve their health. Aware of the important role of public health volunteers, the Ministry of Public Health has asked them to urge local villagers to give up smoking.
A target has been set for one public health volunteer to help one person quit smoking within a period of three months. In the first year of the project, it is expected that 100,000 people, or one in each village, will quit smoking.
Those who give up tobacco consumption during the period will be given purple wristbands, with the statement "Giving up smoking as a tribute to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on the occasion of her 60th birthday.”
Tobacco causes health hazards and both smokers and non-smokers are affected by tobacco-related diseases. The effects of smoking are serious. According to the Ministry of Public Health, about 50,000 Thais die each year from tobacco-related diseases. The number represents 12 percent of all deaths in the country. Smoking causes emphysema, lung cancer, and cardiovascular disease, as well as other diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and damaged blood vessels. The Government spends about 45 billion baht each year on the treatment of tobacco-related diseases.
Statistics compiled by the National Statistical Office showed that, in 2014, 11.4 million Thais over 15 years old were smokers. This means that one in five of Thailand’s population is a smoker. Seventy percent of them live in rural areas. The number of smokers who are younger than 18 was around 400,000 and 100,000 youths become first-time smokers each year. Seven in 10 of the new smokers would be addicted to tobacco for the rest of their lives. The number of smokers is likely to increase, if no action is taken.
All agencies involved are, therefore, stepping up the anti-smoking campaign. The project to encourage public health volunteers to urge people to give up tobacco consumption also focuses on providing the public with knowledge about the dangers of smoking.
Many people are found to have decided to give up tobacco consumption because of their determination, while a number said that they have been advised by doctors to quit the smoking habit for a better life.