The Ministry of Health has expressed concerns about the use of e-cigarettes, Shisa pipes and other heated tobacco products (HTP), such as “vapes”, noting that they all carry “severe” health risks.

The ministry called on the public, especially young people, to avoid trying these products.

The National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) has banned the import, sale or use of any of these items, noting that they are highly addictive and that their use affects public health, said a February 4 press release by the ministry.

They called on the public not to try these products even once, and warned people not to believe the propaganda suggesting they could be effective means of quitting cigarettes.

“We ask that people follow these instructions to avoid becoming addicted or aggravating their own health, and that of the public,” it said.

The ministry also expressed its concerns that many of these products appear to be marketed to young people, with appealing packaging and widespread advertising on social media.

It explained that some of the marketing material suggests that these products are safer than normal cigarettes and may even reduce the number of smokers, but cautioned that vapes also affect people’s health and endanger society.

Mom Kong, executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH), said he has noted an alarming rise in the number of people using these products. He believes that young people’s use of e-cigarettes is particularly on the rise.

“The more these products are advertised, the more young people and children start using them. These items are particularly appealing to new users, because they use misleading and deceptive advertising on social media. Now that the majority of smokers are young people, they are attracting their fellow young people, normalising the use of vapes,” he added.

He explained that while the government has banned people from distributing, importing or using the products, some perpetrators have seized the opportunity to use social media platforms to sell them. The advertising is carefully designed to appeal to young people, he warned.

“As an observer, I believe that emergency measures are needed to stop these products being marketed and sold online. If there are no advertisers, then there are no users,” he added.

He said that in addition to these measures, the government should also make stringent efforts to curb the import of these products to Cambodia. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that all nations ban the sale of e-cigarettes and strengthen controls of imports, in order to protect public health. The UN body recommended that laws be strictly applied to all to the sale, import, and production of e-cigarettes of all flavours.