Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tobacco companies dodge health labels

Tobacco companies dodge health labels

Tobacco companies dodge health labels

The Ministry of Commerce is threatening legal action against local cigarette manufacturers

and importers due to their failure to affix mandatory safety warning labels to packs

of imported cigarettes.

The MOC's warning comes in the wake of a Ministry of Economy and Finance probe that

found only 1.74% of imported cigarette brands sold in the Kingdom carry the required

safety warning.

"If cigarette companies do not respect government regulations, we will take

action," said Khek Ravy, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Commerce. "The

Ministry of Health will be asked to file a complaint against violators [of the safety

warning rule]."

Ravy told the Post on Feb 27 that the Ministry of Commerce had given the cigarette

companies one month to ensure safety warning labels were affixed to all cigarette

packs sold in Cambodia. The MOC would start spot checks of cigarette packs in April

to ensure compliance, he said.

Sales Executive Tan C Mony of cigarette importer Kim Hap Import and Export Co Ltd,

admitted that his company did not affix warning labels to individual packs of cigarettes.

Company policy was to affix a single warning label on each carton of cigarettes instead

of every individual cigarette pack.

"The label hurts sales," Mony said of the company's safety warning labeling

policy. "Our customers won't trust the quality of our imported cigarettes because

if they read a Khmer-language health warning on the cigarette pack, they might think

it's locally made."

In a faxed response to a Post enquiry regarding his company's alleged failure to

comply with the safety warning regulation, British American Tobacco's (BAT) Cambodia

General Manager M.A. Mokaddem said BAT entrusted retailers with the responsibility

of affixing the safety warning to imported BAT products.

Yel Daravuth, Program Manager for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency's (ADRA)

anti-smoking campaign, says the warning label controversy is symptomatic of the problems

caused by Cambodia's lack of a tobacco control law.

"Cambodia is one of the last countries in the world to implement laws to restrict

tobacco advertising, increase tobacco taxes, or limit public smoking," Daravuth

said. "As a result, Cambodia's smoking rates are among the highest in the world."

Dr. Lim Thai Pheang, Director of the health ministry's National Center for Health

Promotion, said representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce,

and the Economic Police met in January to discuss the need for stricter enforcement

of commercial laws governing tobacco sales.

Thai Pheang said that Cam-control had been instructed to confiscate cigarette packages

that did not display the safety warning.

A Post survey of street side cigarette vendors in Phnom Penh's Daun Penh District

revealed that most imported cigarettes on sale did not bear any safety warning.

Thai Pheang said there was an urgent need for Cambodia to address the health threat

posed by smoking.

"We estimate 73,256 Cambodians will die of tobacco-related diseases by the year

2007 if there is no change in behavior by current smokers," he said.

"The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization have estimated that

the predicted indirect financial deficit caused [by smoking] to Cambodia's economy

by 2007 will total almost $1.1 billion, compared to tobacco-generated income of $659

million."

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