The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) have received awards from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) for their implementation of tobacco control in Cambodia.

The Best Practices Awards ceremony was held virtually on February 23 by SEATCA with the participation of ASEAN countries, several civil society organisations and representatives from the winning institutions.

“During this event, we recognised tobacco control champions in the region. The ASEAN member countries have combined efficiently to control tobacco products,” SEATCA said.

SEATCA announced during the programme that it was not just Cambodia that received the award. The health ministries in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology in Indonesia also received the awards.

Soeur Socheata, a representative from the education ministry who joined the event, said that receiving the award from SEATCA encouraged the Kingdom to make more efforts to control tobacco products.

“I hope this award will motivate my working group and all of our partners to continue reducing the use of tobacco products in Cambodia,” she said.

In February last year, the ministry issued guidelines to all public and private educational institutions which prohibited them from cooperating with or receiving support from tobacco manufacturers. They were banned from providing facilities for promotion or exhibition of the tobacco industry, and were asked to eliminate the use of all forms of tobacco products.

In a press release, the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) said the guide was issued after a number of tobacco companies had sponsored educational activities for the purpose of promoting their names and products to students.

NACD in March 2021 issued rules banning the import, trade and use of heated tobacco products (HTP) in Cambodia, in addition to the existing bans on shisa and e-cigarettes – introduced in February 2014.

The press release said the guidelines were in response to an uptick in the promotion of HTP products and e-cigarettes on social media.

CMH said tobacco is responsible for around seven million deaths and approximately $1 trillion in economic losses every year. These numbers are predicted to triple by 2030 if there is no increase in prevention. In Cambodia, tobacco kills about 15,000 people every year and costs the Kingdom $649 million, or about 3 per cent of its GDP, it added.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post that the absence of illegal drugs such as HTPs – and alcohol – in educational institutions contributed to an improvement in individual health, quality of education and life. The ministry welcomed any efforts to improve the health of learners.

“Illegal drugs and alcohol can endanger the health and lives of learners. We will continue to raise awareness of their impacts,” he said.