THE government has set a 2015 deadline for the passage of a tobacco control law that was first drafted in 2003, officials said yesterday following a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Tobacco Control.
Ung Saran, deputy director of the government’s National Health Promotion Centre, said he “hoped” the law would be implemented by the 2015 deadline.
He said the government was committed to tobacco-control reform, but that the passage of the law was complicated.
“It takes a long time because it must go through many inter-ministerial committees,” he said.
Mom Kong, the executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health, said yesterday that, among other regulations, the draft law proposed prohibiting smoking in workplaces and on public transport, banning tobacco advertising, and increasing taxes on tobacco products.
He said he believed it would be possible to finalise the law before 2015.
“It will not take as long as until 2015 because it started in 2003,” he said, and added that the law had already been revised and amended numerous times following suggestions from the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Commerce.
Mark Schwisow, country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, said yesterday that the draft law “encapsulates all of the commitments covered under the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”, which was ratified by Cambodia in November 2005.
He said ADRA and other civil society groups would like to see the law finalised before 2015.
“Political will has not been strong enough to send it forward,” he said. “We’d like to try to encourage the acceleration of the passage of that law. It’d be nice to have a commitment from the committee to pass this law by 2011 or 2012.”
He said he did not know all the reasons for the delays to the passage of the law, but noted that the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce had objected to some articles in the draft addressing the taxation of tobacco.
Domestic tobacco products are currently taxed at 20 percent and imported products at 25 percent.
Mom Kong said the World Bank has suggested introducing taxes of up to 65 percent.
Schwisow said there had been some recent progress in tobacco control reform, with the Health Ministry showing a particularly “strong commitment” to speeding up the passage of the law.
“Recently there’s been a considerable push to get it before the Council of Ministers,” he said.
A sub-decree making it mandatory for all cigarettes sold in the Kingdom to feature written health warnings went into effect on July 20. Companies were given nine months to comply to the new regulation.
Khun Sokrin, director of the NHPC, said it was possible the draft law would be completed before the 2015 deadline.
“We will try our best to do it as soon as possible,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BROOKE LEWIS