Govt urged to ban tobacco ads, 02/04/10

Health experts on Thursday warned that the government is in danger of missing an internationally mandated deadline to ban tobacco advertising.

The deadline is mandated by Article 13 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Cambodia is party, and must come into effect by February 2011, officials from the WHO and the NGO Cambodian Movement for Health said at a joint press conference.

The article states: “Each Party shall, in accordance with its constitution or constitutional principles, undertake a comprehensive ban of all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”

Cambodia signed the convention in 2004.

Dr Mom Kong, executive director of Cambodia Movement for Health, said Thursday that Cambodia was the only party to the convention in Southeast Asia that had no regulations on tobacco advertising.

Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines have all completely banned tobacco advertising, whereas Laos has a partial ban in place, he said.

Dr Sung Vinntak, deputy director of the Health Ministry’s National Centre for Health Promotion, said by phone Thursday afternoon that the government did plan to eventually ban tobacco advertising, but said he could not provide any details or a prediction for when the ban might be implemented.

“We do not have any policy or law relating to this – we plan to have this but don’t yet,” he said. “We have to comply with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, but we cannot predict when we will create the law.”

Kun Lim, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for British American Tobacco Cambodia, part of an international company whose brands include Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall, said via email that the government had consulted with companies that would be affected by a ban, and praised officials for their “commitment to listen” and to ensure that “no unnecessary burdens are placed on businesses”.

He said the company, which recorded profits of US$1.75 billion in Southeast Asia last year, opposed “a complete total advertising ban in Cambodia”, but that there is “an urgent need for regulation restricting/banning mass media tobacco advertising” – including ads appearing on television, the radio, billboards and in print media.

He added that British American Tobacco had since 2001 limited itself to “advertising on some smaller size billboards at appropriate locations”.

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