Building tobacco control research in Thailand: meeting the need for innovative change in Asia

Health Res Policy Syst. 2012 Jan 28:10:3. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-10-3.


Introduction: In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) over the past two decades locally relevant tobacco control research has been scant. Experience shows that tobacco control measures should be based on sound research findings to ensure that measures are appropriate for local conditions and that they are likely to have an impact. Research should also be integrated within tobacco control measures to ensure ongoing learning and the production of knowledge. Thailand, a middle-income country, has a public health community with a record of successful tobacco control and a longstanding commitment to research. Thailand's comprehensive approach includes taxation; bans on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion; smoke-free areas; graphic cigarette pack warnings; social marketing campaigns; cessation counseling; and an established tobacco control research program. The purpose of this study was to document and analyze the development of tobacco control research capacity in Thailand and the impact of research on Thai tobacco control measures.

Method: We used mixed methods including review of historical documentation and policy reports, qualitative interviews with key members of Thailand's tobacco control community, and an analysis of research productivity.

Findings: In Thailand, tobacco control research has evolved through three phases: (1) discovery of the value of research in the policymaking arena, (2) development of a structure to support research capacity building through international collaborations supported by foreign funding agencies, and (3) delivery of locally relevant research made possible largely through substantial stable funding from a domestic health promotion foundation. Over two decades, Thai tobacco control advocates have constructed five steppingstones to success: (1) adapting foreign research to inform policymaking and lobbying for more support for domestic research; (2) attracting foreign funding agencies to support small-scale research and capacity building; (3) participating in multi-country research and capacity building programs; (4) using collaborative experiences to demonstrate the need for domestic support of locally relevant research; and (5) maintaining an unwavering commitment to research while being vigilant to ensure continued research support.

Conclusion: The evolution of tobacco control research in Thailand provides examples of steppingstones that LMICs may be able to use to construct their own tobacco control research pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Biomedical Research / economics
  • Biomedical Research / organization & administration*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Cessation / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Thailand
  • Tobacco Industry
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution