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Monday, May 31, 1999 Published at 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

No-smoking day's big bang

The giant cigarette goes up in smoke and fire

World No Tobacco Day got off to with a bang in Thailand when a 10-metre long mock cigarette exploded at an anti-smoking rally in Bangkok.

A popular singer Payong Mukda was to cut the cigarette with a sword, but the blade kept bouncing off the nylon casing so he stabbed it instead.

Helium-filled balloons inside exploded in a sheet of flame singeing the eyebrows and hair of several people on stage, though no-one was seriously hurt.

No Tobacco Day moves East

The annual event is organised by the World Health Organisation in Geneva to encourage smokers all over the world to kick the habit.

Having lost markets in the richer countries, where the anti-tobacco lobby is strong, the industry has switched focus to the world's poorer countries.

The WHO has begun work with member states on a framework convention on tobacco control.

What is billed as the world's first public health treaty aims to ban advertising worldwide, impose tougher penalties for cigarette smuggling and promote alternatives to tobacco growing and production.

The WHO estimates by 2025, tobacco will be the world's biggest killer, claiming the lives of 10 m people annually.

Currently four million smokers die a year.

[ image: In Switzerland, the world's biggest ashtray is made from white chocolate]
In Switzerland, the world's biggest ashtray is made from white chocolate

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