The government is moving closer to signing an international tobacco treaty that
will regulate the industry by banning advertising, tackling smuggling, and
Two ministerial representatives will attend a meeting
in Geneva next month, to discuss the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
(FCTC). The meeting is a prelude to the signing of the framework in Switzerland
The director of the National Center for Health Promotion, Dr Lim
Thai Pheang, is confident the government will sign the convention and introduce
new tobacco laws.
"Each country will be pushed to follow implementation
after signing in May, to protect people's health and strengthen laws," Dr Lim
said. "For example, packets will be labeled so you will know if they end up in
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that smuggled
cigarettes in Cambodia comprised more than 35 percent of domestic sales in 2000.
That is one of the highest rates in the world, and combating won't be
Market researcher Tim Smyth has watched the nature of smuggling
change dramatically over the past four years.
"Every man and his dog was
bringing cigarettes into this country back then," Smyth said. "It has become
more of an organized, concentrated business, and there is more control in terms
of local production now.
"[It is a question of] whether there is the will
now to stop the smuggling. There are a lot of people involved in it. Smuggling
will be a political football, but the government doesn't have the capacity to
shut it down."
WHO said the amount of smuggling that takes place within a
country is related more to levels of corruption than the level of taxation.
Until corruption is tackled, said one observer, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, not much will change.
"For the health sector, the FCTC will be
easy to follow, but for some articles related to other ministries it could be
difficult," he said.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) estimated
that around $80 million of cigarettes were officially imported in 2001. Added to
that is local production, both legitimate and illegitimate.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that re-exports in 2001 totaled $180
million, said country head Robert Hagemann, with the bulk of those
The world's second-largest tobacco company, British American
Tobacco (BAT) manufactures cigarettes here. BAT spokesperson Thierry de Roland
Peel said the illegal trade of hand-rolled cigarettes - poor quality knock-offs
of tailored cigarettes - was a major problem for the company.
taken 35 percent of the market and they pay no taxes," he said. "They have no
quality control, nothing. We lose a lot a lot of money and we lose market share
"If everybody is paying their whack of revenue cuts, it is a
more level playing field. [The government] should not raise taxes, but enforce
that the industry pays all its taxes for revenue."
Another proposal under
the FCTC is to control tobacco advertising. BAT Cambodia said that it, along
with several other tobacco companies, had already begun cutting TV and radio
"Now our main advertising is at the point of sale," said
Peel. "We are not targeting youth and we are producing a product for informed
adults. We just want to make a product to go against our competitors."