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Heat Increased on Cigarette Companies

After a sub-decree in July warning all companies producing, distributing and selling cigarettes to comply with requirements to display graphic anti-smoking images on all packets sold in the Kingdom and cease promotion of their products, it appears many have ignored the directive.

According to a warning letter from the Ministry of Health (MoH) sent this month, those found in violation of the sub-decree will face legal action.

“Tobacco companies continue to violate the law such as: ladies advertising tobacco in restaurants; display of branded parasols; in-pack competitions including the rewarding of cash to smokers, free cigarettes, lucky draws [for gifts] besides tobacco products; displaying tobacco products on the sides of vehicles; and the display of tobacco packets violating the measurement requirements concerning the public display of tobacco,” secretary of state Ung Phinrun says in the letter.

“Some tobacco companies have never printed the warning stickers to stick on the tobacco packets,” he added, without naming any companies the ministry had found in breach of the sub-decree.

The July sub-decree followed pan-Asean efforts to reduce smoking in the region and increase education about its harmful effects. All 10 countries have now created requirements to display images of health conditions directly linked to smoking.

Cambodia has two images that companies must choose from, a lung cancer patient or a baby harmed by second-hand smoke.

At the time, the Ministry of Health said it would fine manufacturers and importers $1,000 and wholesalers about $500 if they were found to be violating the sub-decree. The ministry has not announced if any fines have been issued.

Mom Kong, executive director of the Cambodia Movement for Health, said there is nothing new about these regulations for the multinational tobacco companies operating in Cambodia, as many countries now have such packaging requirements.

“These tobacco companies are multinational companies, meaning that they sell their products in different countries where such images are enforced following the implementation of such regulations such as in Singapore and Thailand. Why did they not follow the regulations here? You need to ask them yourself,” he said.

According to the July sub-decree, the tobacco companies are required to put the pictorial warning on 55 percent of each package and ban all kinds of advertisement including the use of young women to promote cigarettes in public as well as across all media.

This was to try and reduce the number of smokers in the country, said Mr. Kong, with the packet warnings having two clear benefits in this.

“First, it will help the smoker to decide for themselves whether they want to risk developing the disease as stated on the cigarette packet if they continue to smoke. Second, it will prevent the young generation from starting to smoke as the images are very clear,” he said.

Guillanme Dubois, the marketing manager of Huotraco International Limited (HIL), which distributes the Fine, Davidoff and Royale cigarette brands in Cambodia, said yesterday his company had followed all the government’s requirements and were almost completely in compliance.

“HIL has taken necessary measures to make the company’s products available in the market as instructed by MoH to all the tobacco industry in June,” he wrote by email.

“As of today, Huotraco’s products more than 98 percent are carrying printed PHW [public health warnings] in the market to guarantee our trade partners that they do not risk any penalty.”

Representatives of the British American Tobacco company distributing brands 555, Alain Delon, Kent, ARA and National, declined to comment.

In July they publicly left the Association of the Tobacco Industry of Cambodia trade organization after accusing it of not ensuring that all companies followed the change in packaging requirements.

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