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Enforce smoking laws: report

Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the Japan Tobacco International offices last year in Phnom Penh.
Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the Japan Tobacco International offices last year in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Enforce smoking laws: report

Cambodia is among the highest achieving countries in the Western Pacific Region in terms of having laws in place to protect people from tobacco smoke, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, but enforcement of those laws remains lax, with one official acknowledging that no fines have been issued over tobacco-related violations.

The report on global tobacco use released yesterday says that about 4.7 billion people, or 63 percent of the world’s population, are now covered under at least one tobacco control law or policy. That coverage has quadrupled since 2007.

It attributes that jump to new laws in countries like Cambodia. However, experts say it’s time for the government to start taking action against violators.

Mom Kong, executive director of the Cambodia Movement for Health, said the government has been gradually implementing the 2015 Law on Tobacco Control and a 2016 sub-decree prohibiting smoking in public places. But he said it was time to move beyond dissemination and education and into enforcement.

“I think it’s time for the government to take another step,” he said. “Everyone wants to see the violators get fined.”

Dr Yel Daravuth, who heads the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative in Cambodia, had a similar view. He said the proliferation of graphic warnings on cigarette packages was now at 70 percent, but noted that there still wasn’t full compliance.

“We want to see the fines take place soon so [the regulations] can be more effective,” he said.

However, Ray Rany, head of the tobacco and health office at the National Centre for Health Promotion, acknowledged no fines have been issued yet.

“I can’t tell exactly when the fining will take place,” she said. “But it could be soon.”

Additional reporting by Kong Meta

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