Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kingdom’s habit hard to kick

Kingdom’s habit hard to kick

A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh
A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh yesterday. A study found that more than 40 per cent of Cambodian men were daily smokers. Pha Lina

Kingdom’s habit hard to kick

A whopping two million Cambodians are regularly lighting up, catalysing the already-weighty health burden plaguing the Kingdom, according to the authors of a comprehensive study on smoking published today.

Smoking is the nation’s third-highest risk factor leading to shortened life expectancy and disability and responsible for contributing to the death of thousands every year, according to the study.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the report looks at smoking habits in 187 countries over the past 32 years.

The study found that 42.1 per cent of men in Cambodia were daily smokers in 2012, earning the Kingdom the fifth-highest ranking in Asia beneath Indonesia at 57 per cent, Laos at 51.3 per cent and China at 45.1 per cent.

However, the tobacco habit isn’t plaguing everyone.

“Smoking prevalence – the portion of the population that smokes – varies greatly between Cambodian men and women, a common trend in many East and Southeast Asian countries,” the study notes.

Among Cambodian women, only 4 per cent were found to smoke daily, less than half those in Laos, at 11.4 per cent .

But for men, living in a country where cigarettes are cheap and smoking in public places – indoors or out – is rarely discouraged, change is needed according to report author Dr Alan Lopez, laureate professor at the University of Melbourne.

“The takeaway for the Cambodian government is to view this country’s tobacco addiction seriously. It’s a major hazard that is not coming to Cambodia, but is already here and killing more than 9,000 Cambodians every year,” Lopez said in an interview on Monday.

“The takeaway for the Cambodian public is very simple: Smoking shortens your life expectancy by up to 10-15 years on average,” Lopez said, and if the average person picks up a cigarette between the peak age range of 15-20, they will have a one in two chance of being killed by tobacco, Lopez warned.

But the news isn’t all bad, said Dr Yel Daravuth, head of the World Health Organization in Cambodia’s Tobacco Free Initiative and Health Promotion.

Changes to the nation’s smoking prevalence, the portion of the population that smokes, has actually decreased by an annual rate of 0.5 per cent between 1980 and 2012, Daravuth said.

Dr Sok Touch, director of the Ministry of Health’s communicable disease control department, could not be reached for comment. While the government has passed several initiatives such as a 2011 sub-decree banning tobacco companies from promoting their brands in the city via advertising, and a 2009 sub-decree requiring warnings on cigarette packets, enforcement has been spotty.

And for most smokers, the effect has been negligible.

Chanty, a 19-year-old construction worker in Phnom Penh who declined to give his surname, has been smoking since he was 15 and often whips through a pack a day.

“My friends taught me how to smoke. Now I can’t stop.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the