I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Interior on prohibiting smoking by civil servants in all offices under its supervision, from the central ministry down to the local commune council offices.
It is recognised that smoking damages health and makes people die younger. In recent years, Cambodia seems to have encouraged people to stop smoking, rather than in the 1980s and ’90s when the authorities were more likely to encourage the consumption of cigarettes.
In the past, it was tradition for a bride to offer a cigarette to the groom on the day of their wedding. After the wedding meal, guests were offered cigarettes – even though many of them didn’t know how to smoke. Monks would also be given gifts of cigarettes, which they would smoke while preaching or talking to lay people.
Both of these traditions seem to be dying out. A few years ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared he would quit smoking after one of his grandchildren complained about the smell on his clothes when he cuddled them. Even cyclo riders in Phnom Penh now campaign against smoking.
Unfortunately, it remains a threat to public health in Cambodia as more and more people are smoking in nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
Many motodop riders also seem to smoke too much, unleashing nasty nicotene-stained smiles on their passengers, and some teachers still smoke in the classroom.
When I challenge doctor friends of mine about why they smoke, they respond with “Puth krou kom trap, chbab krou sem york”, which translates as “Don’t follow teacher’s behaviour, but accept teacher’s theory.”
In my opinion, even though smoking is less prolific than in previous decades, the National Assembly should pass a law to ban smoking in public places.
In the meantime, doctors and teachers, in particular, should be the first to change their behaviour and set a good example for others to follow.
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