Health Warnings Also To Appear on Foreign Cigarettes

After a government-imposed deadline took effect last month, Khmer-language health warnings are to appear on the packaging of imported cigarettes this month, manufacturers said last week.

Domestic cigarette packages bearing warnings about cancer, stroke, heart disease, emphysema and tooth decay first appeared for sale last week to comply with a July 20 government deadline.

Representatives of the international manufacturers Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco said their brands–which include Marlboro, L&M, Alain Delon and Fine–now carried such warnings and would appear for sale in the next few weeks as older inventories sell out.

“All Philip Morris products imported into Cambodia after 20 July 2010

feature the new Khmer health warnings, and these products will appear on the domestic market this month,” Soo-Chuan Ong, manager of regulatory affairs at Philip Morris Asia, wrote in an e-mail.

In about five months, current inventories that do not carry the warnings should be depleted, he said.

Simon Evans, a spokesman for Seita-Groupe Imperial Tobacco, said the Fine and Alain Delon brands would also do likewise. Yoshinori Tsuchiya, a spokesperson for Japan Tobacco Inc, which produces Mild Seven and Winston, said Japan Tobacco complied with all relevant laws, but declined to comment on the Cambodian health warnings.

According to World Health Organization data, between 1997 and 2007, 6,000 Cambodians died prematurely every year from tobacco consumption. According to the US government, cigarette smoking causes 438,000 premature deaths in the US every year–40 percent from cancer, 35 percent from heart disease and stroke, and 25 percent from lung diseases such as emphysema–and also causes leukemia, infant mortality and birth defects.

Khun Sokrin, director of the Health Ministry’s National Center for Health Promotion, said the government would ensure that the health warning requirement was obeyed.

“We are implementing this sub-decree. You will see the press release to inform manufacturers about the deadline,” Mr Sokrin said, declining to comment further.

The new regulation meets the international World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which also requires a ban on tobacco advertising.

As party to the FCTC since 2005, Cambodia has until February to create some kind of legislation to ban the advertisement of tobacco, according to Yul Daravuth, program officer for the Tobacco Free Initiative at the WHO.

“I believe that by then we will have a sub-decree…. Our aim is not to push for health warnings on advertisement, but to put in place an advertising ban,” Dr Daravuth said.

Currently there are no tobacco advertisements on television, but there are some on the radio and many on billboards, at points of sale and in newspapers, said Mark Schwisow, country director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

“We are in support of a full ban on advertising of all forms,” Mr Schwisow said, noting that draft government legislation has been going in circles for a while.

Kun Lim, head of corporate affairs at British American Tobacco Cambodia, said his organization would support a “sensible” ban on tobacco advertising.

The company supports the banning of advertisement on billboards, TV and radio as well as corporate sponsorship, but not in print media or Internet sites targeted at adults, Mr Lim said.

“I think at point of sale, people selling cigarettes should have the freedom to put up signs to say who produced the products, he said.

(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy and Cheng Sokhorng)


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