A woman in her 20s says she occasionally smokes e-cigarettes while hanging out with friends, enjoying the flavours such as melon, orange, strawberry and grapefruit, and the stress relief provided by exhaling clouds of vapour.
“After smoking a vape [e-cigarette], I feel a pleasant sensation in my mouth and throat because of the fruit flavour, and you can exhale the smoke in large or small clouds depending on your mood.
“But having smoked for a long time, it can worsen the condition of your throat, which begins to feel dry, leading to coughing,” said the young woman, who gave her name as Lida.
Lida, who lives in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, has a bachelor’s degree and currently works for a private company in Phnom Penh.
She said she usually buys e-cigarettes online, and while she started using them around two years ago, she did not use them often, only when gathering with friends or going to a club.
A Boeung Keng Kang district resident asked not to be named said he started using e-cigarettes after working as a translator for a Chinese man who would hang out a lot at night at restaurants and entertainment places in Phnom Penh.
The 20-year-old said he also bought e-cigarettes online.
“After smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes, I feel relief from stress. But it led to me feeling that I needed cigarettes, and it became a habit as they have some addictive substances,” he said.
The Post recently observed some coffee shops and 24-hour marts near high schools in Phnom Penh. A security guard at one 24-mart Chroy Changvar district said a group of around 10 youths had for two or three years hung around nearby, chatting and smoking cigarettes.
“In the last two years, there was a coffee shop near the 24-hour mart, where many kids congregated to smoke. But when the coffee shop closed, they began gathering at this mart instead,” he said.
E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), and while there are also non-nicotine delivery systems, 99 per cent of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, according to the health ministry’s announcement on the “effects caused by the use of e-cigarettes” on June 24.
The ministry said most evidence pointed to e-cigarette use as being harmful to health.
The use of e-cigarettes can have serious effects on children and adolescents, leading to long-term consequences for brain development and possible memory loss, as well as cause anxiety.
E-cigarettes contain different amounts of nicotine, which can lead to addiction and health problems. Among children and adolescents, it can severely affect brain development, memory, learning and anxiety, according to the Ministry of Health.
Trying e-cigarettes is a leading way of young people progressing to smoke regular cigarettes and towards future drug use.
The use of e-cigarettes can also cause problems with foetus growth and brain development in pregnant women, according to the health ministry.
The indirect inhalation of e-cigarette smoke is also dangerous because it contains nicotine and harmful substances.
According to the health ministry, there is much evidence suggesting that using e-cigarettes can damage the lungs by the water vapour emitted containing nicotine and ultrafine particles, which have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs. Chemicals used in the flavourings in e-cigarettes can also cause serious lung diseases.
E-cigarettes have been banned since 2019 by the Ministry of Interior’s National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) after they were found to be dangerous, endangering the health of users.
The NACD instructed the police to take preventative measures to stop the use, trade and import of e-cigarettes and shisha pipes, before adding further guidelines on measures regarding e-cigarettes and other heated tobacco products (HTPs) in 2021.
Recently, the health ministry and other authorities have observed the promotion of e-cigarettes and HTPs using exaggerated messages such as being a tool to quit smoking and safer than real cigarettes on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Such advertisements are illegal and contrary to the guidelines on measures to prevent the import, distribution, sale and use of e-cigarettes in Cambodia.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) on June 24 issued a directive on the prevention of the use of e-cigarettes and HTPs in public and private educational institutions.
MoEYS has instructed municipal and provincial education departments, district offices of education, and private and public education units at all levels to conduct comprehensive instruction on the effects of e-cigarettes and HTPs.
With all forms of e-cigarettes and HTPs banned inside and outside of school campuses, the ministry added that parents, guardians, educators and students should work together to identify places that sell and distribute them, and report them to the authorities for legal action.
After receiving information regarding young people using e-cigarettes and HTPs, from June 20-25 the Preah Sihanouk provincial department of education held meetings to prepare strategies to prevent their spread into schools.
Preah Sihanouk provincial education department director Ouch Sophea said all schools in the province checked students’ bags daily in class and during break times.
School principals had also organised the Scouts, the Cambodian Red Cross Youth, and youth and children’s councils to check restrooms and other public spaces, she said.
“We did not find any students with either e-cigarettes or HTPs on them, or who had been using them. All school principals have said that no students have been using e-cigarettes and HTPs in any school,” she said.
Sophea said that even though no students had been found with e-cigarettes or HTPs, public and private educational institutions in the province should remain vigilant, particularly regarding advertisements that could attract students to their use.
Phnom Penh education department director Hem Sinareth said that after receiving information on youth use of e-cigarettes and HTPs, he had also held meetings with educational institutions and officials on immediate action to prevent their spread into schools.
“We have already disseminated this work to public secondary schools. We urge all secondary schools to continue their monitoring, and to educate students on the issue of e-cigarettes after the national anthem every day,” Sinareth said.
The National Police on June 22 issued orders on cooperating with all authorities to continue cracking down on e-cigarettes.
Thirty-one people were arrested at 15 different locations in Phnom Penh from June 23-25 and educated as to the law, signing contracts to cease the sale and circulation e-cigarettes and HTPs.
Police seized a total of 3,409 Yooz and Vape e-cigarettes, three Shisha pens, 2,785 bottles of Yooz and Vape refills, 922 boxes of e-cigarette devices, 1,266 sets of Yooz and Vape e-cigarette kits, and six boxes of e-cigarette chargers.
Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) executive director Dr Mom Kong said smoking e-cigarettes caused significant harm to health.
“E-cigarettes damage brain cells and seriously damage the lungs due to the vapour particles they contain. Smoking e-cigarettes is also Covid-19 transmission concern because youth share them around when smoking,” Dr Kong said.