Images depicting the dreadful health effects of smoking will soon adorn all cigarette packs in Cambodia, which will be joined by Laos and Burma as the last countries in the region to enter the visual battle to turn consumers off tobacco.
From July 23, smokers will have to contend with a photograph either of a lung cancer patient or a newborn baby damaged by second-hand smoke, the government announced at the Effective Tobacco Packaging and Labeling conference in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
Mom Kong, director of the Cambodia Movement for Health, a co-organizer of the event, said the photos would have to cover 50 percent of the front and back of the packages and be accompanied by an anti-smoking message.
“The message has to be written in Khmer and be easy to read, clear and irremovable,” Dr. Kong said.
The Health Ministry will approve a list of acceptable warnings each year and dole out fines ranging from 4 million riel (about $1,000) for manufacturers and importers to 2 million riel (about $500) for wholesalers caught violating the requirements.
Cigarette companies were given nine months to comply with the requirements which were set out in an October sub-decree.
An estimated 10,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in Cambodia each year.
The announcement comes after Laos approved a plan last week to put warning pictures and messages on cigarette packs starting in October, with Burma due to require packs to be covered with warnings by September.
Mark Schwisow, country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which works to reduce tobacco use in the country, welcomed the news. He said it would be particularly important for rural smokers, who may not have received much information on the harmful effects of smoking.
“I think it is an important move, as it allows people to better understand and make their own decision on the implications of smoking,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)