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Gov backs initiative for smoke-free Phnom Penh

A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh. Governor Pa Socheatvong favours making the capital a smoke-free city
A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh. Governor Pa Socheatvong favours making the capital a smoke-free city. Pha Lina

Gov backs initiative for smoke-free Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong has thrown his support behind a campaign to make the city “smoke-free”, and has banned his staff from smoking at municipal buildings.

Addressing the second Smoke-Free Phnom Penh workshop last week, Socheatvong cited his own decision to give up cigarettes 11 months ago after more than 30 years of smoking as motivation to support the campaign, which is attempting to get smoking banned from all public buildings, including restaurants and cafes.

“Our governor is a model for all civil servants in Phnom Penh to quit smoking,” municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said yesterday.

“We must start with ourselves if we want to stop smoking at the commune and district levels.”

Dimanche said the municipality had not put a timeframe on the ban, but would enact it as soon as possible.

Socheatvong’s announcement followed a similar decision by the Apsara Authority this month to ban smoking in all of its buildings.

Today the Senate is expected to pass a law on tobacco control which, among other measures, will lay the framework for a ban on smoking in public spaces.

Yel Daravuth, who works with the World Health Organization’s Cambodia office and has assisted in the drafting process of the law, said the legislation would enable lawmakers to eventually mandate fines against smoking inside public buildings.

However he added: “A smoke-free city does not mean people cannot smoke in the city, it just means you cannot smoke within, ideally, 10 metres of places like government buildings and restaurants.”

According to a statement by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month, on average an individual cancer patient costs the government $10,000 per year, and the cost of treatment to the country is significantly higher than the $100 million spent each year by Cambodians on tobacco products.

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