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Tobacco companies threaten to sue health ministry

04 Aug 2005. Thailand's tobacco monopoly and three multi-national firms are threatening to sue Thailand's health ministry over attempts to ban cigarette displays at points of sale such as convenience stores, local media reported 4 August 2005.

The companies argue that the ban, due to come into effect 24 September 2005, deprives them of their right to display their products, which are bought by nearly 40 per cent of Thai men, according to the Nation newspaper. "This ban will make it difficult for us to check the authenticity of products and it will be harder for the tax authorities to verify tax collection," Thailand Tobacco Monopoly deputy director Prapatsorn Pongpanpisand told the English-language daily. The tobacco monopoly, distributor of 20 local brands, has for the first time joined forces with Philip Morris (Thailand), British American Tobacco (Thailand) and Japan-based JT International to fight the ban, which they said was based on unsubstantiated research and decided without their consultation. "The heart of this issue is to stop children from smoking, but this ban will not prevent that," Philip Morris general manager Paul Riley was quoted as saying. The companies argued a better way to discourage youths from smoking, a key plank in the government's health drive, would be to limit display space to one pack per brand and enforce existing rules that include tough penalties for retailers who sell cigarettes to minors. (pi)