The smoking rate among Cambodian men and women is the highest in five countries in Southeast Asia, according to a World Health Organisation report seen Tuesday March 22.
The WHO report, based on country profiles in five countries in the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance and from Cambodia’s National Institutes of Statistics, showed 54% of Cambodian men smoke.
The rate among Indonesian men was 53%, followed by Vietnamese men at 50%, Malaysian men at 49% and Thai men at 39%.
Cambodian women also had the highest smoking rate, 6%, followed by women in Indonesia at 4%; in Malaysia and Vietnam at 3%; and in Thailand at 2%.
Yel Daravuth, a WHO programme officer, said Cambodia’s smoking rate is the highest because of public advertisements through the media and the offer of free cigarettes in promotions by some tobacco companies in Cambodia.
“Compared to other countries in the region, Cambodia is the most open for tobacco ads, which has encouraged the public to smoke,” he said.
The WHO report, which also examined tobacco advertising in countries in Southeast Asia, found Cambodia has no ban, Laos has a partial ban, Malaysia has a stronger ban, Vietnam has a strong ban and Thailand has a total ban.
The survey said total annual tobacco spending by all smoking households in Cambodia isUS$69.44 million and at least one smoker is found in 1,623,000 of the 2,165,000 households in Cambodia.
In 2004, tobacco media spending on television in Cambodia amounted US$1,613,972, an increase of about 1% from nine-years ago. Spending for print campaigns rose to US$224,736 fromUS$154,415 in 1995.
Prime minister Hun Sen, himself a smoker, has recently pledged to push for Cambodian ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“With ratification, Cambodia will join 57 other countries to this treaty, all countries which have shown responsible concern about their citizens’ health,” Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said.
Omi added, “We welcome prime minister Hun Sen’s commitment to curtailing the use of tobacco in Cambodia. With 54% of its men over 20 years of age smoking, Cambodia faces huge public health costs in the future. The world now realises what a serious toll smoking and other uses of tobacco can take on a nation’s health.”
More than 200 brands of tobacco are on sale in Cambodia, the WHO’s Yel Daravuth said.