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WHO left holding breath for tobacco control law

WHO left holding breath for tobacco control law

Cambodia will not meet a WHO deadline for all cigarette packages sold in the Kingdom to bear graphic health warnings by early 2009 because a law on tobacco control has not yet been passed, says Sung Vinn Tak, head of the tobacco health unit at the National Center for Health Promotion.

The country ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requiring health warning messages and graphics to appear on cigarette packages in November 2005.

“To try to meet the deadline, we will soon issue a government directive,” Sung Vinn Tak said. “We have created the directive to ask all cigarettes companies to comply even though we don’t have a law in place yet.”

A graphic image and message was approved by 11 relevant ministries in May of this year and would be signed by the prime minister after the national elections this month, Sung Vinn Tak said.

“The image, provided by the Ministry of Health, will be required to appear on every cigarette package and carton,” he said. “Smokers will know smoking causes health problems.”

We have created the directive to ask all cigarettes companies to comply even though we don’t have a law in place yet.

Dr Yel Daravuth, a national officer for the WHO tobacco initiative, said he applauded the government for its commitment to the directive.
Meanwhile, the proposed law on tobacco control had reached its final draft and was ready to be sent to the Council of Ministers after the election, National Center for Health Promotion director Lim Thaipheang said.

“The law is aimed at banning advertising, controlling tobacco use, increasing taxes and regulating smoking in public,” Lim Thaipheang said. “The government really wants to push for passage of the law.”

He said that government has sought cooperation from tobacco companies to limit their advertising or sponsorship of public events.

“We want to stop all tobacco advertising in all media, but we can’t do it yet. Once there is a law on tobacco control, we will completely ban all advertising.”

Yel Daravuth said that he had already noticed a reduction in the amount of tobacco advertising on television and radio.

Such advertising, as well as billboards and sponsorship of concerts and events, tended to attract young people to smoking, Yel Daravuth said.

“We would like to see a complete ban on tobacco advertising,” he said, urging passage of the law on tobacco control as soon as possible.

“The law is still controversial. It needs clear study about taxation and other impacts on society and the economy,” said Mom Kong, executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health. But he noted that the Cambodian people spend about $70 million a year on tobacco. “That’s just a waste of money.”

National Institute of Statistics figures from 2004 showed that 54 percent of men over age 20 and six percent of women smoke.

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