The Ministry of Commerce is threatening legal action against local cigarette manufacturers
and importers due to their failure to affix mandatory safety warning labels to packs
of imported cigarettes.
The MOC's warning comes in the wake of a Ministry of Economy and Finance probe that
found only 1.74% of imported cigarette brands sold in the Kingdom carry the required
"If cigarette companies do not respect government regulations, we will take
action," said Khek Ravy, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Commerce. "The
Ministry of Health will be asked to file a complaint against violators [of the safety
Ravy told the Post on Feb 27 that the Ministry of Commerce had given the cigarette
companies one month to ensure safety warning labels were affixed to all cigarette
packs sold in Cambodia. The MOC would start spot checks of cigarette packs in April
to ensure compliance, he said.
Sales Executive Tan C Mony of cigarette importer Kim Hap Import and Export Co Ltd,
admitted that his company did not affix warning labels to individual packs of cigarettes.
Company policy was to affix a single warning label on each carton of cigarettes instead
of every individual cigarette pack.
"The label hurts sales," Mony said of the company's safety warning labeling
policy. "Our customers won't trust the quality of our imported cigarettes because
if they read a Khmer-language health warning on the cigarette pack, they might think
it's locally made."
In a faxed response to a Post enquiry regarding his company's alleged failure to
comply with the safety warning regulation, British American Tobacco's (BAT) Cambodia
General Manager M.A. Mokaddem said BAT entrusted retailers with the responsibility
of affixing the safety warning to imported BAT products.
Yel Daravuth, Program Manager for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency's (ADRA)
anti-smoking campaign, says the warning label controversy is symptomatic of the problems
caused by Cambodia's lack of a tobacco control law.
"Cambodia is one of the last countries in the world to implement laws to restrict
tobacco advertising, increase tobacco taxes, or limit public smoking," Daravuth
said. "As a result, Cambodia's smoking rates are among the highest in the world."
Dr. Lim Thai Pheang, Director of the health ministry's National Center for Health
Promotion, said representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce,
and the Economic Police met in January to discuss the need for stricter enforcement
of commercial laws governing tobacco sales.
Thai Pheang said that Cam-control had been instructed to confiscate cigarette packages
that did not display the safety warning.
A Post survey of street side cigarette vendors in Phnom Penh's Daun Penh District
revealed that most imported cigarettes on sale did not bear any safety warning.
Thai Pheang said there was an urgent need for Cambodia to address the health threat
posed by smoking.
"We estimate 73,256 Cambodians will die of tobacco-related diseases by the year
2007 if there is no change in behavior by current smokers," he said.
"The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have estimated that
the predicted indirect financial deficit caused [by smoking] to Cambodia's economy
by 2007 will total almost $1.1 billion, compared to tobacco-generated income of $659