The findings from the National Adult Tobacco Survey of Cambodia 2014 (NATSC, 2014) conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning, Cambodia with technical and financial support from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) was released last October 28 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
There are over 2 million tobacco users residing in Cambodia to date. There is a significant increase in the number of smokers among adult males aged 15 and above from 1.34 million in 2011 to 1.55 million in 2014. Smoking prevalence decreased from 39.1% to 32.9% respectively due to population growth. The findings showed that majority of smokers aged between 45 and 64 years old are from the rural areas and the less educated group.
“The main reason for this is because tobacco prices are still low and highly affordable even to the young. One in two of adult smokers (49.2%) reported had initiated daily smoking when they were below 20 years old. This younger age group is huge and often targeted by tobacco industry marketing and promotion strategies. They are potential customers and are easily enticed if there are no effective and strong tobacco control law implementation,” said Bungon Ritthiphakdee, SEATCA’s Executive Director.
The study showed a high exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) with two in three reported exposed to SHS in restaurants (75.8%) and 49.4% in government buildings, 33.6% in public transportation and 21.6% in health care facilities.
Although there is high public awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use, the study found that intention to quit smoking remains low. Less than 5% of current smokers had plan to quit and one in two (48.8%) of current smokers had no interest to quit smoking at all. One of the reasons is because less than half (44.3%) of current smokers noticed the current, less effective textual health warnings on cigarette packages.
The Cambodian government is called to fully enforce and implement tobacco control law that was passed in May 2015. These include regularly increasing tobacco taxes; de-normalizing tobacco use among teenagers who are the main target of the tobacco industry; implementing pictorial health warnings to encourage smokers to quit; enacting and implementing strong Sub Decree on Smoke-free Environments and Sub Decree on Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS) ban, as well as closely monitoring and effectively countering tobacco industry tactics.