Nearly a year after Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered a smoking ban in all government buildings in the capital, compliance remains sparse.
Sar Kheng’s letter, issued last October, called for a smoking ban in offices at the municipal, district and commune levels.
In addition, staff at those offices were to post anti-smoking stickers and “pictures about the consequences of smoking” as well as promote “education in order to prevent and reduce smoking”.
Ngy Mean Heng, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Health Department, said compliance had largely been limited to health centres and state-run hospitals, and that he did not know when it would extend to all government buildings.
“Step by step, we will strengthen the enforcement of smoke-free policies at all workplaces throughout the city,” he said.
Nevertheless, Phnom Penh deputy governor Chan Sam Ath said implementation of the smoking ban in government buildings had been successful, and called for it to be extended to private establishments.
“The implementation of smoking bans at government workplaces is a success, but we should also ban it in public places, restaurants and entertainment centres,” he said.
He also said that local officials – those at the commune level in particular – should lead by example and quit smoking themselves.
“In order for Phnom Penh to have a no-smoking policy, we depend on all commune chiefs because you are the frontline officials,” he said.
Yel Daravuth, tobacco health adviser at the World Health Organisation, said the WHO would evaluate the effectiveness of the ban on smoking in government buildings next month.
“The aim of the smoke-free policy firstly is to prevent non-smokers from exposure,” he said. “The second is if smokers cannot smoke in their own building, they start to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, and they might quit.”
Mom Kong said he hoped officials would ban smoking in all public places, pointing to research from Cambodia Movement for Health indicating that such a move would have the support of the public.
“We hope soon that the Phnom Penh government will fully implement this policy also,” he said. “According to research, 81.1 percent of Cambodians support banning smoking at public places, and 93 percent said they would also like to see restaurants ban smoking.”