The National Assembly yesterday unanimously passed a draft law on tobacco control intended to combat the annual $100 million smoking habit that kills 30 people every day.
According to a statement issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in December and read out during yesterday’s session, the law contains 13 chapters and 49 articles intended to “educate and reduce tobacco use”.
The prime minister highlighted how 75 per cent of women and 80 per cent of children are affected by smoke at home, while 90 per cent of restaurant- and bar-goers are exposed, and half of people are affected in their workplaces.
Hun Sen said, on average, an individual cancer patient costs the government $10,000 per year, and the cost of treatment to the country is significantly higher than the $100 million spent by Cambodians on tobacco products.
Cambodia is a signatory to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which imposes regulations over the production, sale, distribution, advertisement and taxation of tobacco.
Among its stipulations is a commitment to protect people from secondhand smoke, an increase in taxes to discourage smoking, the restriction of tobacco sales to minors, the combating of illicit tobacco and the inclusion of large health warnings on all cigarette packaging.
Dr Yel Daravuth, who works with the WHO Cambodia office and has assisted in the drafting process of the law since the convention was signed in 2003, said once the law passes the Senate and is signed off by King Norodom Sihamoni, graphic visual warnings of the damaging health consequences of smoking will take up 55 per cent of cigarette packets – a significant proportion more than the 30 per cent stipulated by the convention.
“If there is a warning picture on cigarette packets, it’s more effective at educating people in rural areas. Most rural area people cannot read written warning messages,” he said.
Daravuth said the law was supported by 90 per cent of Cambodians.
The government has also said it will begin subsidising farmers who stop growing tobacco in favour of other crops.
Tobacco kills more than 6 million people around the world annually. In Cambodia, about 11,000 people die each year from tobacco-related diseases.