Tobacco Giant Quits Industry Group Over Packaging Dispute

The local arm of tobacco giant Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which makes Camel, Winston and Mevius cigarettes, has blasted the Association of the Tobacco Industry of Cambodia (ATIC) for failing to ensure its members adhere to new regulations mandating graphic health warnings on cigarette packages.

In a strongly worded statement issued Wednesday, JTI said it had done everything possible to come into compliance with the law, which requires that cigarette packs feature an image of blackened lungs or an infant on a respirator as of July 22. But it complained that other tobacco companies in Cambodia had not followed suit.

Packs of 555 cigarettes, manufactured by British American Tobacco, are displayed at a shop in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Packs of 555 cigarettes, manufactured by British American Tobacco, are displayed at a shop in Phnom Penh in May. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Accusing the tobacco association of failing to ensure a “level playing field” for all companies by holding its members accountable to rules they had all previously agreed upon, JTI said it was pulling out of the industry group.

“JTI will only be part of an association which fully discharges [its] commitments and undertakings” upon all members, the statement said.

In an interview on Thursday, JTI general manager Cormac O’Rourke said the company had done “everything we can” to ensure that new packs were printed with the proper images by the deadline, and that packs already on the market were plastered with stickers featuring the graphic images.

He said JTI was frustrated that it had gone to such great lengths to comply with the rule while other tobacco companies had seemingly not bothered.

“We have invested significant money in supplying stickers to packs, and it seems to me that we are the only organization doing so,” Mr. O’Rourke said.

The association’s other members include British American Tobacco Cambodia Limited, Viniton Group, Heng Heng Import and Export, and Huotraco International Limited.

Su Yung Shun, the general manager of British American Tobacco and the current president of the tobacco association, acknowledged JTI’s withdrawal, but insisted “all ATIC members are treated equally.”

“We would like to emphasize that it is critical to give reasonable timeframes for companies…to comply with new regulations,” he added.

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