THAI MORALS: Breast cream demo furore

News

Models’ public massage rubs officials the wrong way

Society’s conservative forces and arguably overly creative advertising planners are on a collision course again, after a private company launched its breast-beautifying cream by giving breast massages to models in front of reporters’ cameras yesterday.

In order to counter criticism of exaggerated advertising for the product, the company provoked strong criticism by trying to show the cream’s immediate ability to increase breast size.

The demonstration of the cream by St Herb Co Ltd at the Emerald Hotel involved three female models – one of them 18 years old – with only their nipples covered receiving a 15-minute breast massage with the cream by experts, to help fix their breast-shape problems.

Former teenage singer Prissana “Pookie” Praisang, an executive of St Herb Co Ltd, said the demonstration was in answer to statements by the Consumer Protection Board (CPB) and Thai Food and Drug Adminis-tration (FDA) that the newspaper ads could be exaggerated.

She begged the public not to consider the demonstration obscene or an example of discrimination against women, saying it was just to show the product really worked.

The FDA is gathering information from media reports about yesterday’s demonstration, in order to determine whether the product’s advertising really was exaggerated, Public Health Ministry spokeswoman Nitaya Chanruangma-haphol said yesterday.

One model, identified only as Ying, said she did not know that the demonstration would be in front of so many media members, mostly men, but she had to continue despite her embarrassment. However, she does believe that her breasts have become firmer and the gap between the pair one inch smaller.

But Ladda Thangsupachai, Cultural Watch Centre chief, said the campaign was inappropriate and violated Thai culture and morality. “The campaign is just to promote the product without considering the damage to society. This is taking advantage of society and an irresponsible act,” said Ladda.

She said she would take the case before the CPB, to see if the company would face charges.

Vice Minister for Culture Veerasak Khowsurat said those responsible could be liable to a Bt500 fine. He said the company should have known this kind of campaign would face strong criticism and that the public would judge it harshly. He also offered to convene a public forum for discussion of this case.

Thicha na Nakhon, an official with the Network for Women and the National Constitution, said the campaign sounded like public obscenity, and even if the law could do nothing, the CPB should act. “Otherwise, from now on, everyone who wants to sell body products could bring out female models for demonstration. There should be a limit to this sort of behaviour,” she said. She plans to talk to women’s groups about taking action.

Huai Khwang police superintendent Colonel Seubsak Phansura said if the demonstration exposed bare breasts, then it could be obscene. However, he heard that the models had stickers covering part of them. If so, that would fall into a grey area. He added that if anyone files a complaint, he would investigate thoroughly.

An FDA representative at the launch said the product’s label did not violate regulations, because it did not use the words “breast-enlarging cream”. Instead, it read “breast-beautifying cream”, which could allow it to slip through the FDA’s controls. But the FDA will monitor the television ads, and if they are found to be exaggerated, the company could face legal action, the representative said.

Fashion models attracted criticism from the Culture Ministry last year for “indecently exposing themselves” on a catwalk. A group of young women were later fined for indecent exposure after participating in an outdoor publicity stunt featuring scantily clad models taking showers.

Earlier this month, ads for an underwear company featuring a couple lounging around on a bed in their underwear were requested removed from Bangkok billboards, because they were deemed obscene.

The CPB sub-committee said that ad violated Article 22 of the Consumer Protection Act, which states that advertising must not promote illegal or immoral behaviour or cause cultural damage. The underwear company could be fined up to Bt30,000 or its representatives sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.

The underwear company later agreed to remove the offending billboards.

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‘Breast-enlarging’ bra may be banned

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to review a “breast-enlarging” bra’s specifications to see if it warrants an import ban, after the importer claimed the agency had declared the device safe, a senior FDA official said yesterday.

Pakdee Phosiri, FDA secretary-general, said the bureau in June last year classified the bra as a Level I device “under general control”, meaning the product does not require FDA authorisation.

This, however, did not guarantee the product was safe, nor its quality, as the importer, Venus Technology Ltd, claimed in its advertisements, Pakdee said. He added that the FDA clearly stated that it prohibited Venus Technology from making such claims in its advertising without first obtaining FDA approval.

This would require the agency’s medical products committee to review the device’s specifications for it to be reclassified. If the product was deemed not to fulfil the maker’s claims, importation to the Kingdom could be denied, Pakdee said.

The FDA would then ask the Thai Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, a non-governmental body authorised by the FDA, to confirm that the bra meets the requirements for Free Sales Certificates for Level I devices and if it doesn’t, to withdraw the certification, he said.

The manufacturer claims the bra will enlarge the wearer’s breast by one cup size after being worn for 14 days. The maker has produced no laboratory results to back up the claim or to show if there are any health risks associated with long-term use, Pakdee said. He added that company executives would be called on to explain to the FDA the possible impact on a wearer’s health.

Regarding advertising which claimed the bra could cure diabetes and control high blood pressure, Pakdee said the importer could face charges of public deceit under FDA and Consumer Protection Commission laws.

Thailand’s FDA categorises all medical devices into one of three registration levels based on the necessary level of control. They are: Level I devices under general control, Level II devices that require detailed reports to the FDA, and Level III devices – usually those that sustain human life. These must all be licensed.

Published on February 25, 2005

Duangkamol Sajirawattanakul

The Nation

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