Calls to Tighten Smoking Laws

A new report reveals tobacco consumption in the Kingdom remains high, despite a small fall in the percentage of men who smoke, prompting fresh calls to tighten up tobacco laws

Tobacco and cigarette consumption among males have dropped, while usage by females has slightly increased, according to a recent report that has prompted calls for continuous strengthening of the law controlling tobacco and cigarette consumption.

The latest Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey 2021-2022, released in March, showed that the proportion of men who said they smoke has decreased from 32 percent to 21 percent but did not say why.

The percentage of women who use any type of tobacco has increased by less than one percent among those aged 15 to 19 and six percent among those aged 45 to 49. The corresponding percentages among men are eight percent and 40 percent.

In Cambodia, tobacco is smoked in the home daily in 29 percent of all households. This comprises 20 percent in urban areas and 35 percent in rural areas.

Cigarette smoking and the use of any type of tobacco are rare among Cambodian women (two percent). Twenty-one percent of men smoke cigarettes and two percent use other types of tobacco.

Almost all men who smoke cigarettes also use other types of tobacco. Most of them (19 percent) smoke daily and three percent smoke occasionally.

Among men who smoke cigarettes daily, 29 percent smoke less than five cigarettes each day, while 15 percent smoke five to nine cigarettes, 22 percent smoke 10 to 14 cigarettes, and 30 percent smoke 15 to 24 cigarettes each day.

Five percent of men who smoke cigarettes smoke 25 or more cigarettes daily. Less than one percent of women and men use smokeless tobacco.

The percentage of women and men who use tobacco is higher in Ratanakiri 22 percent and 39 percent, respectively and Stung Treng, 13 percent and 41 percent respectively, than in other provinces.

The percentage of women who use tobacco declines with increasing education, from eight percent among those with no formal education to less than one percent among those with more than a secondary education. The corresponding percentages among men are 51 percent and two percent.

Particularly, the percentage of women and men who use tobacco declines rapidly with increasing wealth.

Pa Chanroeun, president of Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told Kiripost on Thursday that the decreasing rate of using tobacco and cigarettes is good news. However, the government and related organizations and stakeholders should strengthen the policies of tobacco and cigarettes to continue with better control and assist in stopping the use of tobacco and smoking cigarette in country.

“The rate of 21 percent [of men smoking cigarettes] is considered to remain high and require more attention from the government, relevant authorities, civil organizations, and private sectors to strengthen and expand some necessary policies in order to decrease the amount of smoking cigarettes and tobacco,” he said.

Smoking cigarettes and tobacco is not only affecting individuals, it is also harmful for surrounding people, he added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year, tobacco causes 15,000 deaths, a third of which are among the poorest in Cambodia. As a result, Cambodia suffers annual economic losses of 2.7 trillion riels, equal to $663 million, due to tobacco consumption. This is equivalent to three percent of Cambodia’s GDP.

To ensure the sector is inclusive, in 2014 the government and EDC started providing up to 150 scholarships a year to underprivileged students. By 2023, 1,866 students had received a total of $2,347,000 in scholarships. To encourage more women to train in the sector, EDC also provides dormitories to accommodate female students.

Bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can reduce tobacco consumption. Tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use and health care costs, especially among youth and low-income people, while increasing tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about five percent in low- and middle-income countries.