May 23, 2011

Tobacco consumers increase


Higher taxes on tobacco products and tobacco control laws are needed to combat smoking rates in the Kingdom, health workers said yesterday, after a national survey revealed a slight increase in the number of tobacco users nationwide.

According to the National Adult Tobacco Survey of Cambodia, released by the Ministry of Planning’s National Institute of Statistics on Friday, the overall number of tobacco users nationwide had increased slightly to 1,993,000. This compares with an estimated 1,924,000  tobacco users detailed by similar survey in 2006.

The prevalence of smoking in adult males over the age of 18, however, was found to have decreased over the last five years, from 48 percent in 2006 to 42.5 percent in 2011.

The report, which surveyed 15,615 people aged 15 and above between October and January, also revealed that 81 percent of people believed cigarette taxes should be increased to discourage tobacco usage.

Dr Yel Daravuth, National Professional Officer of Tobacco Free Initiative and Health Promotion at the World Health Organisation, said yesterday that a tax increase on tobacco would make cigarettes less accessible.

“Cigarettes are affordable even for young people who don’t have much money,” he said. “The most popular brands are still very cheap.”

The NATSC revealed that people who earned less than US$2 a day spent more on cigarettes – more than $41 million a year - than those with higher daily incomes.

The report recommended that the government increase the price of tobacco products in order to reduce tobacco use and discourage young people from becoming smokers. Khun Sokrin, director of the National Centre for Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health, said yesterday that a draft law on tobacco control had been sent back from the Council of Ministers due to a lack of in-country data.

“The Council of Ministers asked about the local data on health issues and costs related to tobacco use,” he said. “We are trying to find support to conduct this research.”

Dr Pieter van Maaren, country representative for the WHO, said at a workshop in Phnom Penh on Friday that the government should approve the tobacco control law.

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