Health Ministry Will Levy Fines for Public Smoking Offenders

People smoking tobacco in offices, restaurants and other public spaces will have to indulge their habit in clearly demarcated smoking areas or both the smoker and establishment owner will face fines, the Ministry of Health announced.

Following the government’s approval in March of a sub-decree banning smoking in public places—including fines of 20,000 riel (about $5) for offending smokers and 50,000 riel (about $12.50) for establishment owners—the ministry released a statement last week laying out specific implementation plans.

A man lights a cigarette in Phnom Penh last year. (Matt Walker)
A man lights a cigarette in Phnom Penh last year. (Matt Walker)

“The ban sign has to be written in both Khmer and English saying ‘No Smoking,’ along with the picture of a cigarette inside a red circle, with a red diagonal line across,” said the statement, dated Wednesday.

Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann said on Sunday that the release of the statement signaled the end of a short “probation period” following the sub-decree’s approval and the start of a system to fine those found to be violating the Law on Tobacco Control.

Mr. Sovann said that the ministry’s own judicial police officers would be tasked with enforcement.

Sok Sokun, director of the Phnom Penh municipal health department, said the ministry has multiple police units tasked with enforcing health laws, but that so far the new tobacco unit had not issued any fines.

“So far, no restaurant owners or a single individual have been fined. The ministry is still in the process of informing people about it,” he said.

Mark Schwisow, country director for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which works to reduce tobacco use in the country, said the main challenge would be notifying authorities and business owners outside of Phnom Penh of the new requirements.

“Your local police officers aren’t going to go out and enforce these rules,” he said. “It will take shopkeepers to know of them and decide to act.”

According to the World Health Organization, smoking is among the leading causes of death in Cambodia, with 10,000 people killed each year by smoking-related diseases.

(Additional reporting by Peter Ford)

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