A survey has found that while only 12 per cent of young Cambodians smoke cigarettes, more than four times that number are exposed to passive smoke every day, and a broad majority back tougher regulation of tobacco products.
Mom Kong, executive director at the Cambodian Movement for Health, said the survey – conducted with the Royal University of Phnom Penh – was undertaken to provide information about youth habits and views on tobacco to inform government policy.
“We found that 49 per cent of youths are passive smokers, which is dangerous for [them]. They do not smoke, but they are exposed to smoke from others. We found only 12 per cent of youths smoke but [both active and passive smoking] destroys their health,” he said.
The Youth Opinion Survey on Tobacco Control, which interviewed 2,092 people between the ages of 15 and 35 from five provinces, found 86 per cent back a tobacco-tax rise to stop youngsters taking up the habit.
Forty-two per cent of young smokers surveyed said they would stop smoking if cigarette prices were to increase, while 34 per cent said they would cut down and 20 per cent said they would not change their habits.
The government increased taxes on cigarettes in July by 10 per cent, but Kong added that Cambodia still has the second-lowest tobacco tax rates in Southeast Asia, after Laos.
Yel Daravuth, of the World Health Organization, said the strong support for tough tobacco control should influence government policies, including a potential tax bump.
But Heng Sothy, deputy chief of the Audit Bureau in the General Department of Taxation, said that no more tax rises were on the horizon.
“We already increased [in July], so we cannot increase again this year.”
Nearly all youths surveyed back efforts to lobby the government to pass a tobacco-control law, and 92 per cent support warning images on cigarette packs.