The Council of Ministers on Friday approved a sub-decree to print health warnings on the outside of cigarette packs, the Council said in a statement.
The sub-decree has been prepared by the Ministry of Health and states that the warnings are meant to “educate the public, especially children and housewives of the effects of second-hand smoke.”
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, referred to the sub-decree as a “big plan” aimed at making “the public aware of what happens when one smokes.” He said by telephone Sunday that the plan is to have warning labels on all cigarette packs so that citizens are aware of the health risks.
“The [tobacco] industry needs to make sure they warn about their products—on each and every package,” Mr Siphan said, adding that at least initially, the messages will be in Khmer.
According to the Council of Ministers’ statement, it was decided that the Ministry of Health must set up a procedure so that the warnings are written only on the sides of cigarette boxes, so as to not be confused with the companies’ logos.
Health Minister Dr Mam Bunheng could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Yel Daravuth, program officer for the Tobacco Free Initiative for the World Health Organization, said that this sub-decree is a positive step. Current warnings carried on some cigarette brand’s packs merely state that smoking harms one’s health, he said. But the new messages will be more specific in detailing the health effects of smoking.
“As I understand, the health warnings will be written text stating that smoking could lead to lung cancer, heart disease, tooth decay and emphysema,” Mr Daravuth said over the phone Sunday. “Now people will know more specifically on why smoking is harmful. Some do not even know!”
Mr Daravuth added that smoking prevalence in Cambodia among both men and women has decreased since 1999, but that it does not mean the overall number of smokers is going down because the country’s population has been increasing. Citing National Institute of Statistics figures, he said that in 1999, 59 percent of men age 20 and older were smokers, and 7.2 percent of women in the same age bracket had taken up the habit. In 2005, he said, 48 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women were smokers.