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Cigarette warning compliance ‘low’

Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office in Phnom Penh in July.
Packets of cigarettes displaying graphic health warnings sit on a table at the JTI International Tobacco office in Phnom Penh in July. Heng Chivoan

Cigarette warning compliance ‘low’

A little over two months after a sub-decree went into effect requiring graphic warnings on all cigarette packages, an official at the Ministry of Health has admitted compliance remains low and warned that fines are in the offing for tobacco companies that continue to ignore the new regulations.

Under the new rules, graphic photos must cover 50 percent of cigarette packets, and a written message in Khmer must cover another 5 percent. Those failing to follow the law are subject to fines of about $1,000 for tobacco companies, $500 for distributors and wholesalers, and $2.50 for retailers.

Ing Phirun, sectretary of state at the Ministry of Health, in a letter dated October 4, said that a ministry committee recognised that since the implementation of the sub-decree on July 22, compliance remains low.

“We found that all tobacco companies do not yet respect the rules,” he wrote. “This is a first warning . . . if there’s still failure to comply, the committee will take legal action.”

Phirum and ministry spokesman Ly Sovann couldn’t be reached for comment.

A group of students at the Royal University of Law and Economics surveyed 99 retailers in Phnom Penh and found a majority of them weren’t complying with the law. “We found a massive [amount of] noncompliant products that didn’t carry the printed pictorial health warning,” professor Kiri Khim wrote in his report, which was obtained on Friday.

Ratana Um, spokesman for British-American Tobacco (Cambodia) Ltd, which controls about 40.3 percent of the market, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Kitty Oct, with Japan Tobacco International, initially said she would be available for comment, but her phone was later turned off. JTI in July ended its affiliation with the Association of Tobacco Industry of Cambodia due to the association’s failure to ensure compliance with the law.

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