New VN Anti-Tobacco Law Should Be Emulated, Campaigners Say

A draft law penned more than six years ago intended to regulate cigarette smoking in Cambodia still has not been passed, officials said yesterday, while an anti-tobacco group lamented the slow passage of the legislation in Cambodia as neighboring Vietnam has just passed a law to curb smoking.

Sung Vinn Tak, deputy director of the National Center for Health Promotion, said the 2003 draft law on tobacco control has not been passed and it is not clear when it may come up for discussion.

“This law is a draft only. We don’t have any idea about when it will be passed because it is a draft,” said Dr Vinn Tak, noting that he personally could not speak as to why the draft legislation had stalled.

Mom Kong, director of the Cambodia Movement of Health, a nonprofit that works with the government on tobacco control, expressed frustration yesterday about the lack of movement while Vietnam is now beginning to enact similar legislation.

“It has passed back and forth from the Ministry of Health to the Council of Ministers several times. It is with the Council of Ministers now,” Dr Kong said. “They say they need time to study how the law will affect the livelihood and culture of tobacco farmers. We already did a study from 2008 to 2009 showing it did not impact the livelihood.”

According to Dr Kong, the Vietnamese law, which took effect on Jan 1, prohibits smoking in public places, increases cigarette tax and restricts the sale of tobacco products, among others provisions.

Phay Siphan, Council of Ministers spokesperson, said he was unaware when Cambodia will discuss its draft law, but noted progress in the recent government sub-decree mandating textual warning labels on cigarette packages.

According to a report compiled by the National Institute of Statistics, which was released last April, 48 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women in Cambodia are smokers. Additionally, 17 percent of women chew tobacco and just 1 percent of men do the same.

According to Dr Kong, Cambodia lags far beyond its neighbors in terms of tobacco awareness.

“Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia Brunei–they have the ban on ads, the smoke free environments, they are far ahead regionally,” he said.

Though Cambodia’s draft law, which focuses on banning tobacco ads, printing visual warnings on cigarette boxes and bans on smoking in public places, among others, has not been passed, the government has made progress, Dr Kong noted.

“Recently the Council of Ministers passed a sub-decree on text warnings” on cigarette packages, he said.

(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)


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