The NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) on Thursday urged the government to take stricter measures to implement the Law on Tobacco Control, claiming that some tobacco companies continue to flout the law by targeting underage consumers.

CMH said in a Wednesday press release that cigarette sellers use tricks like flavoured tobacco to attract youth. It said the government should take stricter measures and impose fines on those who commit wrongdoing.

There is also a major increase in counterfeit cigarettes that do not carry warnings or tax stamps, CMH said.

In a press release, it said for “World No Tobacco Day”, which falls on Saturday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a report titled: Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.

WHO explained the industry manipulates customers in several ways. One is using flavours to attract youth by advertising that it is a product that minimises dangers or is more hygienic than common cigarettes without proven science.

The industry also sponsors movies stars and other celebrities and produces contest programmes that advertise tobacco and nicotine products.

“The Industry tries to make it easier for students to buy tobacco and nicotine and markets tobacco indirectly via films, TV programmes and live programmes on the internet,” the press release said.

CMH executive director Mom Kong said on Thursday that besides the WHO explanation about trafficking cigarettes, he read a study on the implementation of the Law on Tobacco Control by the Royal University of Phnom Penh last year.

The study suggested that 30 per cent of cigarettes that were put up for sale in the market did not carry a health warning label in Khmer or pictures. Also, 58 per cent of cigarettes put up for sale did not carry a tax stamp.

“I urge the government and relevant officials to implement the law on cigarette sellers and advertisements in public places,” Kong said.

The Ministry of Health has quoted the results of research studies from tobacco inspections in Cambodia last year by the UN Development Programme, WHO and the Secretariat of the Convention on the Control of Tobacco Products as saying that tobacco use results in 15,000 deaths in Cambodia annually.

People in the lowest income brackets accounted for 33 per cent of those deaths. Tobacco use is also estimated to account for a loss of $649 million to the economy, equivalent to three per cent of the gross domestic product of Cambodia.