More than 100 young Cambodians from 15 universities and 5 youth organizations took part in a workshop to arm themselves with knowledge and skills to battle the influence and scourge of tobacco companies.
The workshop, spearheaded by the Cambodia Movement for Health, the WHO Cambodia and
the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), sought to train the youth to be effective
tobacco-control advocates from the battlefronts of media, government offices, to the legislative
and executive halls where health policies are crafted.
"We aim to turn the youth from being the most vulnerable target market of tobacco companies
to being the most empowered and most vocal for turning back the tobacco industry," SEATCA
Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said. "This workshop allows young Cambodians to defend
themselves and others from one of the biggest killers in the world."
Cambodia has some of the cheapest tobacco products in the region and in the world. The
tobacco industry tries to keep the price low precisely to make it affordable to youth with little
disposable income. Among other objectives, the coming workshop will thus educate the
participants on the virtues of raising tobacco taxes to ultimately raise the prices of cigarettes and
other tobacco products.
"Tobacco taxes can save Cambodian youth, the worlds youth, from addiction and harms of
tobacco. Raising these taxes, which raises cigarette prices, is like raising a wall between the
youth and the tobacco industry," said SEATCA Initiative on Tobacco Tax (SITT) project director
Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo. "The higher that wall, the safer Cambodia's youth and people will be," he
It is knowledge and messages like that, SEATCA says, that will equip the Cambodian youth to
confront the industry that's coming at them with so many campaigns. Tobacco industry
interference to tobacco control policy aims to weaken tobacco control law, or not to have laws at
all. All sectors must work together with the youth of Cambodia to ensure the WHO FCTC is
Youth, especially in Cambodia, have shown that nothing is impossible, if you have the numbers.
"If the youth are aware of how they are being targeted and victimized, they will not only be able
to defend themselves, they will fight back," said Dr. Mom Kong, Executive director of the
Cambodia Movement for Health.
"We organized this Youth workshop on Tobacco Taxation, for this urgent mission of
empowering the youth to fight for their own future. And as Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director
General said, ‘The tobacco epidemic is entirely man-made’—Let us stop this tobacco ‘epidemic
now” adds Ms. Rithiphakdee.
Cambodia's tobacco tax, at 20- to 25-percent of retail prices, is still among the lowest in the
ASEAN region, and is in fact the second lowest in the ASEAN. As a result, local cigarette
brands are the cheapest tobacco products in Southeast Asia. Foreign tobacco brands are
cheaper in Cambodia than any other ASEAN country, other than in the Philippines and Vietnam.
The National Adult Tobacco Survey says that in 2011, there were already close to 2 million
smokers in Cambodia.