The Ministry of Information in Cambodia has introduced new limits on alcohol advertising, while the Ministry of Health encouraged people to reduce alcohol use. The Cambodian government expressed concern about the serious consequences from alcohol harm on public health and the economy, as well as society as a whole.

The Cambodian government has come forward to take action to better protect people from alcohol advertising. This protection takes the form of a limitation on advertising of alcohol products in public. The Ministry of Information introduced the new policies, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health issuing a warning on alcohol consumption.

The Minister of Information, Neth Pheaktra, signed off the ministry announcement on January 9, 2024. The directive prohibits alcohol advertisements from encouraging people to consume more and more alcohol by offering incentives for doing so. The Ministry also outlaws the use of women and girls by the alcohol industry to advertise their products.

We also prohibit [alcohol companies] from using women or girls to advertise alcohol, as this affects the rights and dignity of Khmer women,” said the ministry, as per Phnom Penh Post reporting.

In addition, all billboards, online media, television or radio ads – or any other media – which advertise alcohol must feature the warnings ‘Do not drink and drive’ and ‘drink responsibly.'”

The Ministry of Information, Cambodia

In addition to improving the protection of the Cambodian people from alcohol marketing, the government also warned the public about consuming alcohol as a part of product promotion campaigns. The alcohol industry uses incentives such as cash prizes, cars, and new motorcycles to incentivize people to engage in alcohol consumption.

The Ministry of Health warns of the health effects of alcohol

Cambodia’s Ministry of Health also warned the people of the health implications of alcohol consumption, especially high-risk alcohol use. Some of the health implications mentioned are liver damage, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, mental illness, and an increased risk of stroke. The Ministry appealed to the authorities, community members, and schools to create an alcohol-free environment in the country.

We call on all members of the public – especially the young, to avoid consuming alcohol. To those who have never drunk alcohol, please don’t start,” said the Ministry of Health, according to Phnom Penh Post reporting.

For those who do, please reduce your consumption to a minimum, for the sake of your loved ones and your own health.”

The Ministry of Health, Cambodia

Disrupting the alcohol industry, changing the alcohol norm, protecting people from alcohol promotions

The actions of both the Information and the Health ministries are interlinked. Creating an alcohol-free environment is very difficult when alcohol advertising permeates all parts of society.

According to Yong Kim Eng, the President of the People Centre for Development and Peace (PDP), alcohol advertising is ‘out of control’ in Cambodia. PDP is a member organization of Movendi International.

The most prominent brands make an appearance at nearly all major public events and national holidays. This ‘anarchic’ messaging targets all the demographics vulnerable to alcohol harm. The Mr Kim Eng also highlights that more and more varieties of beers are appearing on the market. Therefore he calls for additional policy action: alcohol policy solutions that address the affordability of these cheaper varieties of alcohol should supplement the bans on alcohol advertising.

We hope that the new health minister is committed to minimising the risks that are linked with alcohol, so it will not destroy the future of new generations,” said Me Kim Eng, according to Phnom Penh Post reporting.

We suggest that the minister consider adding new taxes to alcoholic beverages and would like to see him try to quicken the passage of alcohol laws, which have been stalled for nearly ten years.”

Yong Kim Eng, President, People Centre for Development and Peace

Big Alcohol pushes alcohol on Cambodia’s youth aggressively

Speaking to Movendi International, PDP President Yang Kim detailed the aggressive ways in which alcohol companies push their products on young people to increase alcohol consumption among Cambodian youth.

On January 10, one incident gained public attention for featuring four youth who were made to consume alcohol on stage. The program subsequently came under heavy criticism for doing so. These incidents serve to normalise health harmful products and practices among the youth of Cambodia. The backlash for this incident led to the present policy improvement.

In response to this incident, the Ministry of Information banned the inappropriate promotion of alcoholic beverages.

This includes advertisements that promise rewards, or any other promotion that encourages people to consume more alcohol in pursuit of prizes.

In a January 9 notification to all media and advertising companies, information minister Neth Pheaktra also banned the use of advertising language or slogans that promote the “excessive” consumption of alcohol.

Any violation of this new directive would result in the advertisement being removed.

While these measures are steps in the right direction, recognizing the predatory practices of alcohol companies and the heavy alcohol burden affecting Cambodian society, the new measures are also still inadequate and not international best practice for how to respond to alcohol marketing comprehensively.

For example, the new measures allow the alcohol industry to deploy unlawful alcohol marketing still, for a little fine and removal after people would have seen to alcohol ad.

Given that this cycle of backlash and inadequate government response is frequently recurring, PDP expresses their dissatisfaction with the policy improvement.

We are not satisfied with the response – the Ministry issues such notices every year, but they do not take the necessary action when the media inevitably violates it. This notice too was a response to the the incident on January 10. What the notice should have been is a notification of the punishment to those who violated the laws.”

Yong Kim Eng, President, People Centre for Development and Peace

Communities want change

The Cambodian people and communities are deeply concerned about alcohol harm in general and alcohol marketing in particular. Movendi International has reported before about community calls for better protections against alcohol companies amidst their alcohol marketing onslaught.

Big Alcohol has a history of disregarding community and cultural values when advertising alcohol products. In Cambodia, where 90% of the population is Buddhist, and try to practice a life free from alcohol, this is particularly egregious.

Despite the rising alcohol use and harm, alcohol-related public health policy-making in Cambodia has been flawed. As previously reported by Movendi International, in 2015, Cambodia drafted one of the best alcohol laws in the region. However, after that, the government stopped talking about the law, and no one offered an explanation for why it was never passed.

Meanwhile, a UNDP report from 2021 stated that an average of 5.4 people die on Cambodia’s roads daily, with 13,700 injuries and more than 2,000 deaths due to traffic accidents in 2019 . The cost to the economy was significant, it said, an estimated $466.8 million. Kong Ratanak, director at the Institute for Road Safety, believes part of the problem is the absence of an alcohol law.

We urge the government to speed up the [alcohol] law because the increased distribution of alcohol is a high risk for public health, especially for the young generation,” said Kong Ratanak, director at the Institute for Road Safety, as per Camboja News.

Kong Ratanak, director, Institute for Road Safety

Cambodia’s youth, ‘the bamboo shoots of the future’

The youth of any country are its future in more ways than one. The Cambodian government refers to the younger generations as the ‘bamboo shoots of the future’: the young saplings that will one day grow into a mature grove that shelters the nation. As the analogy implies, these young saplings need nurturing and guidance to grow healthy and strong. It is therefore important to protect the youth from alcohol industry marketing that harm their wellbeing and development. The Minister for Information further points to alcohol’s second-hand harms as a reason to prevent alcohol marketing. The Minister cites traffic accidents, domestic violence, and violent crime as examples.

In order to curb and eliminate these outcomes, we once again remind the owners and managers of media outlets, as well as the owners of companies which produce, import or distribute alcoholic beverages to pay close attention to the regulations that are in force.”

The Minister for Information, Cambodia

For further reading

Source Website: Phnom Penh Post