Health authorities have proposed a sweeping ban on all tobacco advertising and promotion.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng said a proposed sub-decree banning advertising and promotion of tobacco products was discussed during a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee for tobacco control yesterday and would be sent to the Council of Ministers “soon”.
“We are creating the sub-decree on tobacco advertisement measures because we are mainly focused on promoting people’s health,” Mam Bunheng said.
The advertising ban is a key component of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Cambodia ratified in November 2005.
The convention demands that member states institute a “comprehensive ban” on all forms of tobacco “advertising, promotion and sponsorship” within five years of ratification.
Mam Bunheng said companies that breach the ban on advertising would risk losing their business licences. “If any company does not follow, first we will send a letter to warn them,” he said. “Second is to suspend their business and the third is to withdraw licences from running businesses.”
WHO tobacco health adviser Yel Daravuth said he supported a ban. “Banning advertising of tobacco products is an important step to prevent youth from starting to smoke,” he said. “It will help smokers start to quit.”
Mom Kong, the executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health, said tobacco advertisements were far too prevalent.
“There are all forms of advertisements in the media,” he said. “You can see it on the street, or at concerts, which can attract a lot of youths and rural people to smoke.”
Kun Lim, the head of corporate affairs for British American Tobacco Cambodia, said the company had been prepared for an advertising ban and supported it – so long as the embargo was enforced across the board.
“We welcome all the sensible laws regarding tobacco control, including advertising,” he said.
“If it is done on a level playing field, I don’t see any major issue with it.”
Kun Lim said BAT would like point-of-sale advertisements – posters where cigarettes are sold, for example – not to be included in any potential ban.
“How do we get information to the consumer? We can only do so at the point of sale,” he said.
Chum Sophea, the human resource manager for Viniton Group, which markets Angkor brand cigarettes, said any ban on advertising would affect the company “100 percent”.
However, her company was still waiting to see what the new sub-decree would entail, she said.