Cigarette advertising could be banned from all radio, television and print media by the end of 2003, halting one of the main ways young people are influenced to begin smoking, according to Ministry of Information officials.
“We have to prevent the younger generation from smoking,” said Pov Yada, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Information. “If we don’t [ban cigarette advertising] now, it will be too late.”
The Ministry of Information is preparing a new law banning tobacco advertisements, which it hopes to have in place before the end of the year, Pov Yada said. The law currently is in inter-ministerial discussion, after which it will be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Planning, 53 percent of men aged 18 to 25 smoke; the number rises to 60 percent among men aged 26 and older.
Last year, a Ministry of Health commission set up to study tobacco use asked the Ministry of Information to stop television stations advertising cigarettes between 7 pm and 9 pm.
Timing is key to making an impression on young viewers, said Mean Chhivun, deputy director general of the Ministry of Health.
“Cambodian people have dinner, then rest. So at that time, a lot of people watch the television. It has a strong impact on audiences, especially the young people who haven’t gone to bed yet.”
Television Association Deputy Director Sok Ey San said Tuesday that as a result of the Ministry of Health directive, most stations have now stopped advertising tobacco during family viewing time.
But television executives don’t consider this a boost to the nation’s health, but a threat to their income. Cigarette ads constitute a large portion of advertising revenue, Sok Ey San said—without them, stations could find themselves in financial trouble.
“Right now, we don’t have many cigarette companies asking to advertise on the television,” Sok Ey San said.
“If there are no cigarette advertisements, there will be a lot of difficulties for television stations, because the majority of their income comes from cigarette advertising,” he said.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, 50 high school students from across the country came to Phnom Penh to participate in a three-day educational workshop about the dangers of smoking, organized by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.
“We want young people to be aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes; otherwise, they will be easily persuaded to smoke by advertisements,” said Yel Daravuth, the agency’s president.
During the workshop, participants will be asked to write down the ways in which advertising affects their perception of smoking. The students’ ideas will then be submitted to the relevant ministries, in order to help bring measures against tobacco advertising, Yel Daravuth said.
Vann Samath, deputy director general of the Ministry of Education, said during the workshop that participants offered a number of diverse factors that influence young people to begin smoking.
“When farmers are working in the rice fields, they say they need to smoke in order to stop insects biting them,” Vann Samath said. “Besides that, people living in forested areas think they need to smoke to avoid mosquito bites and other insects.”
“In the provinces, young people smoke because they have to work hard, but in Phnom Penh, young people smoke because they want to look handsome,” he said.
Monks are another high-risk group, according to Vann Samath. They are often offered cigarettes by laymen, and feel unable to refuse them, he said.
“People in Phnom Penh can stop smoking by eating sweets or reading books, but in the provinces it is very difficult to stop.”