A new study has found that the Cambodian economy loses approximately $663.5 million per year – equal to three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) – as a result of tobacco use, while 15,000 people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses.
The study about the effects of tobacco on health and the economy – conducted by a UN-led international team and RTI International (formerly Research Triangle Institute) – was published on Thursday, after 12 months of research.
It said Cambodia needs to take additional measures, in addition to the existing laws, even though the number of smokers had decreased.
“Tobacco remains a primary risk to health, the economy and society, while some 290 Cambodian people lose their lives every week because of tobacco-related diseases. Most of them were from low-income families,” the study said.
Rodrigo Santos, a technical officer for the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), said after the report’s launching ceremony that the costs were due to healthcare expenditure and “hidden” productivity loss from premature death, disability and smoking breaks.
“This is the first study in Cambodia that is able to compare the Kingdom to other countries which have conducted similar research."
“The study shows that on average worldwide, other countries lose only 1.8 per cent [of GDP] due to tobacco use, while in Cambodia the loss is about three per cent. This means that the loss in Cambodia is almost twice as much compared to other countries,” he said.
Rodrigo said Cambodia had implemented a number of positive action plans by adopting new laws and measures which help reduce the numbers of smokers.
The next step is to enforce the existing laws and increase the tax on tobacco products, which, he said, would help reduce the number of smokers.
A joint study is conducted across the country every five years by the National Institute of Statistics and the Ministry of Planning on tobacco use among adults.
It showed that tobacco consumption among people 18 years or older had decreased in the last 10 years. Among men, tobacco use had decreased from 48.98 per cent to 35.3 per cent, while the women’s use was down from 20.53 per cent to 11.6 per cent.
Ministry of Health secretary of state Oeurn Borarorth said the government would assess the new study and better implement tobacco control in Cambodia.
He said Cambodia had already introduced successful plans to prevent tobacco use and reduce its impact.
“At the same time, we have some difficulties in controlling tobacco products, such as not fully enforcing the law, low taxes on tobacco products and the lack of participation of relevant parties and the public."
“Therefore, we will increase our efforts regarding tobacco control so it becomes more effective,” Borarorth said.
Rodrigo said people should be aware of the health risks – such as heart-related disease, a range of cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
He said tobacco control measures could avert some $1.94 billion in health costs and economic losses and save 57,000 Cambodian lives in the next 15 years – or 3,815 lives annually.