The World Health Organization designates certain days every year for various topics to promote awareness and knowledge on the issue, with May 31st highlighting the dangers of tobacco use.
World No Tobacco Day was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 for the purpose of reminding world citizens about the impacts of tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, and the WHO’s efforts to fight the tobacco epidemic. Also, the day will provide a chance for the public to express their opinions against tobacco, as well as claim the right to a healthy lifestyle for themselves and the next generation.
A variety of topics have been addressed by the WHO on World No Tobacco Day, including tobacco and lung disease, tobacco and heart disease, tobacco and threats to development, and increasing taxes on tobacco. This year’s topic is “Protecting Youth from Industry Manipulation and Preventing them from Tobacco and Nicotine Use.”
WHO reports indicate that tobacco is responsible for more than 8 million deaths per year, with approximately 1.2 million being victims of second-hand smoke.
Reports from the WHO and the National Survey of the National Institute of Statistics in the Ministry of Planning show that 2 million Cambodians are tobacco smokers, of which, the number of above-15-year-old smokers has exponentially risen while the figures of smokers aged between 45 and 64 has also skyrocketed, especially with rural residents and less educated people. Research for the National Survey was funded by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
The WHO report shows that a major cause of the increased number of smokers in the kingdom is the low price, resulting in affordability by youth. The report also mentioned the majority of second-hand smoke victims were mainly affected in restaurants and public transportations.
The study also showed that in spite of major campaigns on the danger of tobacco, the desire to quit smoking remains low.
In September 2019, the Cambodian Movement for Health (CMH) published results from a joint research project by the United Nations Development Program, the WHO, and the Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat, indicating that about 15,000 Cambodians died each year from illnesses caused by tobacco, an average of 40 deaths per day. The research also mentioned that 33% of the deaths were people of lower income levels.
Diseases caused by tobacco in Cambodia include stroke, coronary artery disease, lower respiratory tract infection, pneumonia, and lung and throat cancers.
The report also illustrated the economic effects of tobacco use, with the country losing nearly $650 million per year, of which $584 million was due to loss of economic productivity due to premature death and low job performance, caused by smoking breaks and absences from work. This figure also includes treatment for illnesses caused by tobacco.
The CMH stated that this huge burden hampers the country’s development.
Cambodia introduced the Law on Tobacco Control in 2015, which aims to protect public healthcare and minimize the impacts caused by tobacco on health, economy, society, and the environment.
If Cambodia implements strict measures on tobacco control, the country will save 57,000 lives and about $2 billion from economic loss as well as healthcare expenses in 2033, according to the CMH.
Measures on tobacco control include:
- Increased taxes on tobacco: CMH’s tax increase measures are seen as potentially effective in diminishing the number of deaths and economic loss caused by tobacco. Cambodia ranks number four globally on lowest tax on tobacco products and, according to the WHO and World Bank, if the country raises the tax to 75% of the tobacco’s price , Cambodia will earn around $235 million from tax within five years and $933 million in a 15-year-period.
- Ban all tobacco advertisements to the public through concerts, sport events, or other events, as well as from tobacco agencies, either directly or indirectly to people.
- Put the health risks associated with tobacco use prominently on cigarette packages.
- Strengthen the ban on smoking in the workplace and public spaces to prevent risks to non-smokers. CMH mentioned that Cambodia, among ten ASEAN countries, has higher levels of cigarette smoke in restaurants, and children and women are mainly the victims. The banning measures will not only keep non-smokers from inhaling smoke, but also lead to the reduction and quitting of smoking.
- Broadcast campaigns to raise awareness to the public is a key strategy to change society’s routines and attitudes towards tobacco and the dangers of cigarette smoke, in order to help prevent, reduce, and eliminate tobacco consumption.
The Ministry of Health could not be reached for comment on the issue.
This post is also available in: KH