All cigarette packaging in Thailand will have to feature large pictorial health warnings by September 23, after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in support of a new regulation by the Public Health Ministry.
In line with the regulation, pictorial warnings must now cover at least 85 per cent of space on the two largest sides of each package.
Earlier, a tobacco firm had managed to put a brake on the measures by seeking an injunction from the Central Administrative Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court, however, decided to scrap the injunction on the grounds that the Public Health Ministry has proceeded with proper procedures and introduced the regulation to protect people's health.
"The court has also taken into account the fact that tobacco entrepreneurs should be able to comply with the regulation," the ministry's permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat said yesterday.
The regulation has now taken immediate effect upon the cancellation of the injunction.
There will be a 90-day grace period for retailers to clear their existing stock of cigarettes, according to Nopporn Cheanklin, deputy director general of the Disease Control Department.
Currently, cigarette packages have pictorial warning that cover about 55 per cent of packets. After the grace period, companies that fail to abide by the new regulation will face a fine.
According to Nopporn, cigarette manufacturers and importers are liable to face a maximum fine of Baht100,000 (S$3900) if they defy the regulation. Retailers who sell cigarettes with the smaller size warnings will face a fine of up to Baht20,000 ($770).
Around 70 countries now require cigarette packages to display pictorial warnings. The pictures, which communicate adverse impacts from smoking, are thought to make a more forceful impact on consumers than written warnings which were used in the past.