Health officials warned recently that popular diet pills can lead to early deaths if taken without a doctor’s instructions.
More than 70 percent of health products advertised on television have not been licensed by the Ministry of Health, so people cannot tell if the medicine will help their health or destroy it, said Dr Heng Huot, the chief of the ministry’s Regulations Department.
Chea Sovanna’s mother died in June. She had been a film star until a two-year diet pill regimen—prompted by her producer’s insistence that she lose weight—ended her life. Chea Sovanna said her mother had no idea that the medicine could be dangerous.
“My mother’s health was always very good, but when she started taking the diet pills she lost weight drastically,” Chea Sovanna, 20, said. “A few days later she was very thin and couldn’t eat anything. Now she’s dead.”
Heng Huot said the diet pills can ruin people’s health. Users have been known to suffer from lung cancer, liver damage and extreme dizziness, among other symptoms. Heng Huot named the Jumel’s brand as one of the most deceptive purveyors of dangerous diet drugs. He said Jumel’s ads tell viewers that its pills enable people to eat normally and lose weight without exercising.
Heng Huot said the only safe way for a person to slim down is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise daily. “I don’t believe the Jumel’s ad on television. They lie to us,” he said, adding that Jumel’s other products, such as skin lotion and facial foam, are not necessarily dangerous.
Heng Huot said the Health Ministry has been lobbying the Ministry of Information to stop television stations from airing advertisements for health products that have not been approved by health officials.
Ministry of Information officials said they had received letters from the Ministry of Health about banning obscene images on health product ads but professed to know nothing about banning all advertising for unlicensed products.
Liav Sinara, chief of Cabinet for the Ministry of Information, said he had stopped the inappropriate promotion of health products on television—such as suggestive ads for breast-enlarging creams. As for diet pill ads, stations appear to have prohibited them themselves, Liav Sinara said.
An Apsara TV official complained that the Ministry of Health always tries to stop stations’ ads after contracts have been signed with sponsors.
“But [in the case of diet pills] my station does not have a problem because the contractual obligations have already been fulfilled.”
Fay Sam Ang, program manager for TV3, said his station advertises Jumel’s skin care products but not the diet pills. “Before I advertise a product, I always ask to see a license,” he said. “I can’t take money to destroy people’s health by air and screen.”