The NGO Cambodian Movement for Health (CMH) renewed its call for the authorities to take action against the sale of e-cigarettes. These products continue to be widely promoted on social media, despite authorities’ efforts to restrict them, it said.

In a December 5 press statement, CMH said the promotion of e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, remains widespread. It asked the authorities to take stricter measures to prevent youth from becoming addicted.

CMH said that through regular monitoring, it has discovered that social media platforms such as Facebook, Tik Tok and Telegram is being used to advertise and sell vapes. Sellers often use images and videos designed to appeal to children.

In addition, some local celebrities and influencers were seen using these products, setting a poor example for their younger fans, it added.

“This activity slowed down for a while as the authorities took active measures to pursue the sellers and have them sign agreements promising to stop selling them. But lately, the sale and distribution of vapes has rebounded on social media,” it said.

Mak Chito, deputy National Police chief in charge of anti-drug enforcement, said the Ministry of Health as well as the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), have issued a strict ban on the use of vapes, even though Cambodia has not yet passed a law outlawing their use.

“Authorities conducted raids, seized evidence and instructed sellers and consumers to cease and desist. Once caught, we reprimanded the sellers and educated their customers. Once they had signed a contract with us, we allowed them to return home. If an offender is caught again, we will seek further punishment,” he added.

He said the authorities are not ignoring the problem, and are continuing to investigate cases of the selling or distribution of e-cigarettes, whether sold at home or through social media.

“We have asked for permission from the anti-drug authorities to destroy the confiscated e-cigarettes that we seized from a warehouse recently,” added Chito.

According to the NACD, vape cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, especially to children and young people. It can cause severe damage to children’s brain development, affecting their memories and making concentration difficult, which can affect their ability to work and learn.

According to preliminary results of research on the use, distribution and trafficking of e-cigarettes in schools, most young people who know about vapes, learned about them through social media.

According to the CMH, the presence of advertisements – as well as demonstrations, designed to make their use look attractive or glamorous – on social media is having a devastating effect on young people and their futures.

The distribution and use of these products is banned in Cambodia, in accordance with instructions on taking preventive measures to stop the import and use of shisha and E-Cigarette products, issued in 2014.

According to data collected by the US CDC, from August 2019 to February 2020, illegal THC vapes caused illness in 2,807 Americans. 68 died from lung diseases caused by their use.