Two civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the fields of child and youth health urged authorities to take further measures against the e-cigarette or vaping trade.

The Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) and the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Alliance made the call in a September 27 joint statement, warning that e-cigarette manufacturers and vendors were actively targeting the youth market.

The press release claimed that e-cigarette makers had developed flavours aimed at attracting younger customers.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine. If young people and children use them, it can cause serious harm to their lungs, hearts and especially their brains. They are often misleadingly advertised as a means to quit smoking cigarettes,” it added.

CMH executive director Mom Kong said both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes were tobacco products that endanger health. The main difference appeared to be that e-cigarettes were smokeless and aimed at younger consumers, he added.

“Young adults and children who use e-cigarettes are consuming nicotine, which will affect their developing brains,” he said.

“Authorities at all levels should take the strictest legal action possible against those who advertise and sell these products, in order to prevent the youth from becoming addicted,” he added.

Mom Kong said that while the government has prohibited imports and prevented the use of e-cigarettes, they were still widely available online.

An NCD Alliance official, who asked not to be named, said he had observed traders selling e-cigarettes online despite the prohibition of such sales.

“We know that they are circulating widely through online markets, but we have not seen action from the authorities,” he said.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), from August 2019 to February 2020, a total of 2,807 in the US alone had fallen ill and 68 had died from lung disease caused by smoking e-cigarettes.

The Cambodian government ordered a nationwide crackdown on the products in June, with thousands of products being seized from thousands of locations.

However, the civil society organisations claimed that vendors had found ways to reintroduce them to the market, primarily by selling them online.