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Blast Mars Thai Smoking Ceremony

May 31, 1999

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ A huge mock cigarette stuffed with helium-filled balloons accidentally exploded in a fireball today when it was being chopped in two during an anti-smoking ceremony.

No one among the two dozen or so activists standing next to the cigarette at the World No-Smoking Day event was seriously hurt, although several suffered singed eyebrows and hair.

Payong Mukda, a popular singer, was to cut the 10-yard-long cigarette with a sword on a crowded stage at a Bangkok shopping area to demonstrate opposition to smoking.

The blade bounced several times off the nylon casing and Payong resorted to stabbing through it. The volatile gas ignited, and flames 15 feet high billowed briefly on the stage, then were extinguished when the gas was consumed.

Payong’s cheeks were scorched, but he was otherwise unhurt.

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