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Push to ban public smoking

A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh late last month
A man smokes a cigarette in Phnom Penh late last month. Pha Lina

Push to ban public smoking

The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint memo yesterday advising recipients to take measures to ban smoking in public places.

The “circular” is the first of its kind in Cambodia, and is to be distributed by all government ministries in the coming weeks.

It comes in lieu of a law drafted in January that would have banned public smoking.

That law was rejected by the Council of Ministers, which balked at the idea of fining people who breached the sub-decree rather than offering them “education”.

Mam Bunheng, minister of health, said yesterday that fines would not work in Cambodia, adding that two anti-smoking laws – banning tobacco companies from advertising and obliging them to publish health warnings on their packaging – had already been passed.

“In Cambodia, we cannot fine people as some countries do,” he said.

“We cannot predict the reaction, that’s why we will educate people instead. We hope that smokers will understand and join with us to protect their health, the environment, and reduce smoking.”

The memo, which is not legally enforceable, suggests that organisations serve the public ban smoking, including in government buildings, restaurants and bars – even petrol stations.

Hok Khiev, a director of the legal department at the Ministry of Health, yesterday urged those in charge of public places to sign up to the “ban”.

“If they still smoke despite the ban, the owners must order them to smoke outside, and if they still do not obey, the owner must call the police to educate them to smoke outside,” he said. He added that the airport should add a new smoking room, which a report released last week by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance said was due to be built by British-American Tobacco using their brand colours, despite a sub-decree being in place banning tobacco firms from advertising.

Dr Yel Daravuth of the WHO said all ministries have agreed to review the circular.

“So I think it’s the first step, and we will need to see how it can be implemented.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE

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