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ABOUT 17.3 million Thais are victims of second-hand smoking at home, with a prolonged daily exposure of 30 minutes imposing a greater risk of cardiovascular problems and strokes, Dr Prakit Vathesatogkit, head of Action on Smoking and Health Foundation said yesterday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that Thailand suffers economic losses worth Bt75 billion a year from smoking and Prakit urged Thai authorities to strictly enforce the Tobacco Product Control Act 2017 to discourage smoking in prohibited zones to protect non-smokers.
In a Bangkok media conference ahead of May 31’s World No Tobacco Day, Prakit cited a WHO report finding that 2,615 Thais died yearly from coronary heart disease or strokes triggered by smoking, with victims as young as 21 to 25 years old. These people were among 6,500 Thais who die from second-hand smoking-triggered health complications each year, he said.
“Many victims inhale second-hand cigarette smoke from nearby people at offices and especially at home. Although smoking isn’t illegal, the smokers should be aware of harms caused to others and try to quit. It you cannot kick the habit, at least you should not smoke in the house,” Prakit said.
The 2017 Act increases the number of areas where smoking is banned and requires that owners of those premises prevent people from smoking. “This existing law should be enforced strictly,” he said.
About 100,000 Thais die from coronary heart disease or stroke each year – of which 20,000 reportedly stemmed from smoking, noted Dr Khanchit Likittanasombat, a cardiologist at Bangkok’s Ramathibodi Hospital cardiologist, and president of the Heart Association of Thailand.
Khanchit said smokers aged 30-45 had a four-time greater chance of dying from coronary heart disease or stroke than non-smokers.
Dr Praditchai Chaiseri, from the Heart Foundation of Thailand, said second-hand smokers had 1.25-1.27 times the risk of coronary artery disease and 1.25-1.35 times the risk of a stroke than non-smokers.
Srisavarindhira Thai Red Cross Institute of Nursing executive Dr Duangkamol Wattradul shared real-life stories of patients aged 21-39 suffering from coronary heart disease, along with an 18-year-old who suffered a stroke from exposure to second-hand smoke.
A WHO representative to Thailand, Dr Daniel Kertesz, said the international health body was this year emphasising the danger of smoking on cardiovascular heath in its campaign to reduce cigarette and tobacco consumption.
“Each year three million people around the world die from cardiovascular problems and stroke – which are Thailand’s top-rating killers too, because 15,000 Thais die from cardiovascular diseases due to smoking,” he said.
“A working-age smoker has four times more risk of having coronary heart disease or a stroke than non-smokers,” he said.
“Thailand has progressed in tobacco control but smoking remains a major problem as one fifth of adults and one sixth of youths are smokers – an estimated 11 million people,” he said.
Kertesz cited a WHO study from 2009 that estimated Thailand suffered economic losses worth Bt75 billion a year from smoking.