Thai movies not pushing cigarettes
Unlike other major film-making centres, Thailand has not fallen prey to the indirect promotion of cigarettes in movies, says an Action on Smoking and Health Foundation study.
The study was conducted by Chulalongkorn University PhD candidate Saowalak Assavathevavit, and looked into 19 Thai films released last year. Ms Saowalak's research shows cigarette smoking is not an important factor in the Thai film industry.
Research results released yesterday in support of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation's campaign against smoking, indicated scenes of cigarette smoking did not have any significance in promoting tobacco use.
Most scenes in which cigarettes were used showed smokers in the role of villains or people portraying negative images like prisoners or those involved in illicit trade, Ms Saowalak said.
Results showed 15 of 19 films included scenes of cigarette smoking, but only for an average of 1-3 seconds.
And although one film included a foreign cigarette brand's trademark on the t-shirt worn by the film's hero, it was essentially unintentional because the brand was also the trademark of clothing products, she said.
Film director Jira Malikul said avoiding the use of cigarette smoking in Thai films was not difficult because it was an insignificant factor.
Actor Korakot Thanaphat, who often plays the role of villain, said cigarette smoking scenes in films was not only bad for viewers, but also for non-smokers like him who had to smoke as much as one packet for scenes shown only for a few minutes in the films.
Actor Peter Myopsy said he tried to avoid smoking cigarettes in film scenes by simply holding a cigarette in his hand rather than putting it to his lips because he quit smoking and opted to play sports while he was still in highschool.
Ms Saowalak's research analysed cigarette smoking behaviour of performers in Thai films and investigated the intentions behind including scenes of cigarette smoking or logos of products in the films.
Her study was released to coincide with this year's World No Tobacco Day campaign of ``Tobacco Free Film, Tobacco Free Fashion: Action'', which will be launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 31.
Anti-smoking activist Dr Prakit Vathisathokit, who is also dean of Mahidol University's Ramathibodi hospital, said cigarette smoking scenes in movies made in major production centres were included intentionally to promote the use of cigarettes.
He said the WHO had proposed international film producers rate films that include scenes of cigarette smoking as R, so parents must accompany their children to see the film.
Dr Prakit said the WHO has urged the international film industry to warn patrons of the dangers of cigarette smoking in disclaimers at the beginning of films and to state in the film's preliminary titles that it had not been sponsored by tobacco companies.
He said the film industry in Thailand had not yet been influenced by tobacco companies, and measures should be taken to ensure Thai films continued to be free from such influence.
Dr Prakit urged Thai film makers to raise public awareness of the dangers of cigarette smoking by including clear messages in scripts, as young people were significantly influenced by movie characters.
National statistics show as many as 6.5% of Thais who smoke picked up the habit at the age of 10-14 years, 58.2% began at the age of 15-19 years, and 27.7% began at the age of 20-24 years.
As many as 92.4% of Thais who smoked cigarettes began smoking before the age of 24, he said.