The World Health Organisation (WHO) has awarded the “World No Tobacco Day 2023” award to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport for its role as an active participant in the fight against tobacco use in Cambodia.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said the award honours the ministry for its polices that prohibit the use of tobacco products in the Kingdom’s education institutions.

“The ministry has paid close attention to this issue and introduced many guidelines. We appreciate the encouragement and cooperation of all stakeholders to improve the health of student,” he said.

The ministry has issued instructions to all public and private education institutions, specifying that they may not partner nor cooperate with the tobacco industry. This includes a total ban on the use or advertising of tobacco products on school grounds.

“We are also working with all stakeholders to raise awareness about the impact and dangers associated with the use of drugs or alcohol,” said Soveacha.

Mom Kong, executive director of the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH), said the ministry deserves the award as it has done a lot of work to prevent children and young people from smoking.

“We know that when a tobacco company involved with any activity in a school or educational institution, its only purpose is to make their product known to students, in the hope that they will become customers,” he said.

Speaking at the May 29 commemoration of World No Tobacco Day, observed this year with the theme “We need food, not tobacco”, education minister Hang Chuon Naron said the award reflects the ministry’s accomplishments in raising awareness about the consequences of tobacco use.

“One of the major activities that the ministry carried to prevent tobacco use was the publishing of health education textbooks for teachers and students from Grade 1 to 10. The books have been distributed throughout the country,” he said.

“This award should serve as an inspiration for leaders of all levels at of the ministry, education staff and learners across the country to protect all of the achievements we have made,” he added.

The WHO noted that tobacco use increases the risks of some non-transmittable diseases such as cancer, strokes, and

heart and lung disease, while also having a detrimental effect on the economy, environment and society as a whole.

The Ministry of Health recently claimed that tobacco use among adults has dropped. The prevalence of tobacco use for people aged 15 and over dropped from 17 per cent in 2014 to 15 per cent in 2021. Smoking prevalence for the general public dropped from 17 per cent in 2014 to 13 per cent in 2021, it said.

For the 13-15 age group, the rate of smoking dropped from 6.3 per cent in 2010 to just 2.4 per cent in 2016.