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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Thailand bans hookah pipes
Thailand has added the smoking of Arabian hookah pipes to its list of outlawed pastimes after introducing a curfew on a popular internet game on Tuesday.

Correspondents say the pipes, which can be passed around socially, are the latest craze in Bangkok's night clubs after first taking off in the city's Middle Eastern quarter.

The health minister said the habit was harmful and would make it easier for young people to become addicted to a fashionable new form of tobacco - shisha - which often has flavourings added to improve the taste.

Last year, Thailand adopted a tough anti-smoking ban in shops and on public transport.

"It is a new style of smoking which might make teenagers think it's not dangerous to their health," said Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan.

"But it will make it easy for teenagers to become addicted."

Shisha, the minister added, was high in toxic substances such as tar and nicotine.

Games curfew

Earlier this week,the authorities slapped a curfew on certain internet games in an effort to curb addiction among young people.

The 2200-0600 ban, which is a short-term experimental measure to be reviewed at the end of September, is mainly aimed at a new role-playing game called Ragnarok.

Young players hooked on the game have been exchanging large amounts of money to improve their performance.

The success of Ragnarok has taken Thailand by storm. Introduced only six months ago, it already has 600,000 registered players there.

It offers a complex virtual world, in which players take on the identity of a character and can play indefinitely, competing for power, weapons and status.

Unofficially, there is a cash element too. Points gained during play can be used to buy weapons or improve performance.

But in Thailand, players are buying and selling these points in the real world for money, sometimes large amounts.

Thailand restricts online gamers
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: Thailand
15 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Thailand
24 May 03  |  Country profiles

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