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Fuming cigarette maker exits local industry body

Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office last week in Phnom Penh.
Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office last week in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Fuming cigarette maker exits local industry body

It has only been a week since legislation came into effect that requires cigarette manufacturers to apply graphic images and warning labels to their packaging, yet the tobacco industry has already suffered its first casuality as one of the country’s biggest cigarette distributors announced yesterday that it was severing all ties with the local industry body set up to protect the interests of cigarette producers.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) declared in a press release that it was ending its affiliation with the Association of the Tobacco Industry of Cambodia (ATIC), a group that includes Cambodia’s two largest tobacco companies – Viniton Group Co Ltd and British-American Tobacco (Cambodia) Ltd (BATC).

“JTI will only be part of an association which fully discharges its commitments and undertakings made,” said Cormac O’Rourke, general manager of JTI.

According to O’Rourke, ATIC failed to create a “level playing field” by flagrantly ignoring legislation and allowing unmarked cigarette package imports to continue to flood into the local market despite legislation requiring all cigarettes in the market to carry graphic images and warning labels on their packages as of July 23.

“We stopped importing any new cigarettes since July 8 and after three weeks of trying to encourage all members to abide by the law, we can no longer be associated with ATIC,” he said. “No manufacturer should be importing unmarked cigarettes after July 22.”

He stressed that JTI honoured its commitments, while “the rest of the companies are not prepared to follow the law and have not met the requirements”.

JTI is the manufacturer of Camel, Winston and Mevius cigarettes.

O’Rourke said that for the ATIC to be a credible association, it must force all member companies to abide by the same standards, and those that flout the law should be scrutinised equally by the Ministry of Health.

“There cannot be one rule for legitimate companies and another for those who ignore all government regulations,” he said.

The law on cigarette packaging was adopted in October 2015. The legislation requires that graphic photos depicting the ill-effects of smoking cover at least 50 per cent of cigarette packages with a written warning message in Khmer covering an additional 5 per cent.

BATC spokesperson Rattana Um declined to comment on the issue, but said in a statement that the firm had no objection to JTI leaving the industry body.

“BATC, along with the other members of ATIC, respects their decision to leave ATIC in line with the Association’s statute,” she said.

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