Monday, 19 October 2009 15:05 Vong Sokheng
THE Council of Ministers is to make graphic new warning labels on cigarette packages mandatory – part of a plan aimed at combating one of the world’s leading killers.
The visual warning labels will be mandatory on all cigarette packets sold in Cambodia, with the graphics occupying no less than 30 percent of the packaging space, according to a press release from the Council of Ministers, which on Friday adopted a sub-decree ordering the new warnings.
Mam Bunheng, the minister of health, declined to comment on the issue when contacted on Sunday.
In August, Lim Thai Pheang, director of the National Centre for Health Promotion, said a Health Ministry sub-decree originally called for anti-smoking photos in addition to warning messages, but that a Council of Ministers subdecree approved that month requested that warnings be text-only.
One health advocate Sunday called the latest announcement a “step forward”. Mom Kong, executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health, wants the government to ensure that the new labels will feature a particularly visual warning to smokers that cigarettes can kill.
“I hope that the government’s programme will have a fatality warning picture,” he said.
Currently, 60 percent of cigarette companies in Cambodia print warnings on their packets, with the labels tending to be small and text-based, Mom Kong said. The result is that the warnings have little effect in reducing smoking rates, he said.
According to the World Health Organisation, 5.4 million people die every year as a result of smoking, 80 percent from developing countries.
Tobacco-related deaths, the WHO says, outnumber fatalities from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
In addition to mandatory warning labels, the sub-decree will also seek to prevent false advertising about cigarettes, the announcement said.
The Council of Ministers will make it mandatory to include symbols urging caution when handling chemical fertilisers and other agricultural products, according to a separate sub-decree also adopted last week.
“We can protect the health of individual farmers and reduce the environmental impact on society,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers.
An unofficial estimate suggests the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers is widespread, with 600 separate types available in the Kingdom, said Keam Makarady, director of the environment and health program at the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture.
Roughly 80 percent of them are imported and do not contain warnings in Khmer, he said. No date has been set for the implementation of either sub-decree.