Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New law bypassing illicit cigarettes

New law bypassing illicit cigarettes

Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

New law bypassing illicit cigarettes

The tobacco industry has urged the government to crack down on cigarette smuggling ahead of new laws mandating graphic health warnings, saying failure to do so gave smuggled products a competitive edge.

The warnings – displaying grisly charcoal-coloured lungs and an infant with severe breathing problems – will be required on cigarette packets from Saturday, but packs not sporting the images will continue to be seen on the shelves as vendors exhaust their old stock.

Cormac O’Rourke, general manager at Japan Tobacco International, part of the Association of the Tobacco Industry in Cambodia, claimed 5 per cent of the Kingdom’s cigarettes were illegally imported, and so were not subject to taxes, or health warnings.

“Our company . . . always respects the law of Cambodia and the other announcements related to the tobacco industry. But our concern is that, from our observations, 5 per cent of tobacco products on the domestic market are illegal, and that shows the unfair competition,” he said.

“We want to see the relevant authorities of Cambodia wipe out those illegal tobacco products from Cambodia’s market in order to encourage and build trust with the companies that are respecting the law.”

James Rarick, team leader for noncommunicable diseases unit at the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said this was a common complaint from the tobacco industry.

“Often we hear the tobacco industry say that different tobacco control measures [such as including graphic health warnings and higher taxes] will increase the smuggling problem . . . but there’s no evidence of that,” he said.

“Frankly, it’s really a matter of law enforcement.”

He added the images, together with other steps, were effective in deterring smokers, especially as they reached people with low-literacy levels.

Director of public affairs at the government’s Tax and Excise General Department Bou Bunnara admitted there was a smuggling problem and his department would address it.

“We will put more efforts to enforce the law in order to dramatically reduce the untaxed importation, and not only for cigarettes,” he said.

Cambodian-American doctor Mengly Quach said graphic images alone wouldn’t prevent smokers and the government needed to also increase taxes and crack down on illegal imports.

“In Cambodia, there are so many loopholes . . . you have to tighten the illegal importation of cigarettes; but in Cambodia, money talks.”

He said the government should put an age restriction on smoking, and tax cigarettes at a higher rate, with the funds to go towards educating children of the risks and treatment for cancer patients.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10