WHO Award Shines Spotlight On Thailand’s Statistical


Tobacco industry has used deception and lies to market
its deadly tobacco products and lure children and young
people to killer addiction over the decades. But it was only
data, science and evidence that provided rock solid ground
to health justice and corporate accountability advocates
worldwide to expose the nefarious designs of tobacco
industry, and advance historic progress in form of global
tobacco treaty, as well as range of domestic laws and its

It is indisputable that tobacco kills,
and there is no safe limit of tobacco use. Over 8 million
die of tobacco use every year worldwide – each of the
deadly disease or untimely death due to tobacco use could
have been prevented. “Tobacco is entirely a preventable
epidemic,” said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Asia Pacific Director
of International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
(The Union).

The United Nations (UN) health agency,
the World Health Organization (WHO) confers its World No
Tobacco Day awards every year to recognize stellar
contribution of those advancing lifesaving tobacco control
policies worldwide.

Prestigious WHO award 2023 to
Thailand National Statistical Office

Among the 2023
WHO Director General’s World No Tobacco Day Awardees is
Thailand National Statistical Office (TNSO). TNSO’s data
has provided a strong evidence-base to implement tobacco
control effectively in Thailand and help save

Dr Piyanuch Wuttisorn, Director-General,
National Statistical Office of Thailand, said in an
exclusive interview with CNS (Citizen News Service): “A
lot of policy making bodies such as tobacco control
agencies, use tobacco control data and information from us
(TNSO). For example, information on awareness about tobacco
health hazards is important. It is only because of data from
our surveys that we know which province in Thailand has
higher problem of tobacco use. This data is vital so that we
can tailor the measures and activities targetted in these
specific areas. This helps us and other relevant agencies to
impact change and reduce tobacco use.”

Most of tobacco
use begins among children and young people, as tobacco
industry continues to ‘hooks them young.’ Dr Piyanuch
said that “We do not want children and young people to
begin tobacco use. But if survey shows young people are
getting involved in tobacco use, we can have stricter policy
implementation to control that early on. That is why
TNSO’s survey is so important.”

The TNSO’s survey
has generated data on range of other important information
that has helped shape more effective policies in Thailand.
For example, expenditure on particular items in different
provinces of Thailand is known because of such a survey.
Increasing taxation on all forms of tobacco products is
among the strong evidence-based policies of Thailand to
improve tobacco control. TNSO’s data also shows tobacco
user type, or quantity of tobacco products consumed (and
this includes electronic cigarettes or other forms of
electronic nicotine delivery systems or vaping products).
Thailand had banned electronic cigarettes in 2014 setting an
important precedent to follow for several other nations

“Our surveys have shown if tobacco
control policies were effective or not – this monitoring
and evaluation is vital so that relevant national policy
making bodies can use our data and improve enforcement and
public health outcomes,” said Dr Piyanuch.

There is
an important legal principle that says “ignorance of the
law is no excuse,” because violators of any law cannot
defend their actions by saying ‘they did not know that it
was illegal.’ But there is no doubt that awareness about
laws should reach far and wide.

It is important that
prohibition on sale of tobacco to anyone below the age of 20
years in Thailand, should be widely publicized and enforced
strictly. “If our data shows health information is not
reaching a population, then we can tailor our advocacy
activities for better adherence to health laws and
policies” said Dr Piyanuch.

“We need to encourage
that all people are aware about the prohibition of any form
of tobacco advertising, promotion or sponsorship, because
such marketing activities, either online or offline, are
banned. TNSO’s monitoring and evaluation of the compliance
of tobacco control law 2017 in Thailand is playing an
important role,” said Dr Piyanuch.

Statistical Office of Thailand has done surveys and
generated data on range of issues. National Health Behaviour
Survey is one of them. TNSO looked at tobacco control,
alcohol intake, other diseases and activities that impact
health adversely, and range of other indices.

Piyanuch who leads TNSO, had earlier served as
Inspector-General, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,
Thailand; Director, Social Data-based and Indicator
Development Office, Office of the National Economic and
Social Development Council; Senior Advisor in Plan and
Policy for Director of the International Cooperation office,
Office of the National Economic and Social Development
Council; and Secretary-General, Office of the National
Digital Economy and Society Commission of

Despite key role of data, challenges

“Stakeholders who are involved on various
health issues have high demand and high requirement for
credible and reliable data. Disaggregated data is even more
in demand. As of now, Thailand has disaggregated data up to
the provincial level (called ‘Changawat’ in Thai),”
said Dr Piyanuch.

Also, many stakeholders want TNSO to
add more questions in the survey questionnaire to collect
more information that may prove valuable for policy making,
monitoring and evaluation.

“But it is very difficult
to ask people so many questions frequently. People are
fatigued. Also we need to realize that in urban areas,
people tend to deny answers to questionnaire from any
governmental agency. In urban areas it is hard to get them
to respond,” said Dr Piyanuch.

People are also
concerned about sharing personal data. Thailand’s Personal
Data Protection Act or PDPA is considered the first Thai law
designed to govern data protection in the digital age and
has been considered comparable to the European General Data
Protection Regulation (GDRP). Key aspects of the PDPA
include data processing, data collection, data storage, and
data consent protocols.

“This is why it is very
challenging to drill down any further than provincial
level,” said Dr Piyanuch.

Although national tobacco
use has dropped substantially over the years in the land of
smiles, still TNSO data has shown that tobacco use among
young people and males, needs to be more effectively
addressed. Those growing tobacco crop should be encouraged
to transition to other crops. Those who are using tobacco
should benefit from tobacco cessation services in Thailand
and get rid of this deadly addiction, said Dr

Bobby Ramakant – CNS (Citizen News

(Bobby Ramakant was awarded the 2008 WHO
World No Tobacco Day Award and serves as Health Editor of
CNS (Citizen News Service). Follow him on Twitter
@BobbyRamakant or read

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