Cambodia Movement for Health executive director Dr Mom Kong received the “WHO Director-General Special Recognition Award” from the Director-General of the World Health Organization for the efforts and achievements in tobacco control in Cambodia to protect the well-being of the people.
The presentation ceremony was held at the World Health Organization’s office in Cambodia on Tuesday.
Dr Li Ailan, WHO Representative to Cambodia said at the ceremony that for more than two decades in the fight against tobacco in Cambodia, Dr Kong has advocated and campaigned with relevant institutions, media, citizens and people using tobacco for the adaption of the Law on Tobacco Control in 2015. The removal of tobacco advertising from airport duty-free shops, countering and preventing industry interference on tobacco control in Cambodia were among his achievements.
She added: “Dr Mom Kong is the sole recipient of the “WHO Director-General Special Recognition Award” this year, and this is a first for Cambodia. We are looking forward to the continuation of our productive cooperation for the health and well-being of the Cambodian people.”
According to Dr Li, tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death in the world, killing more than eight million people each year.
She said smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking involves fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) being in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.
Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness. Smoking products such as water pipes often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings.
Dr Kong yesterday said it was an honour for him and his colleagues of the Cambodia Movement for Health, as well as partners in the field of tobacco control, the Ministry of Health, the relevant authorities and all Cambodians who have participated to make significant progress in controlling tobacco products.
“Tobacco control is not short-term work, it takes a long time. Therefore, my commitment is to ensure that the existing laws we have, is implemented better as according to the international institutions’ assessment, we currently have comprehensive laws, but the implementation is challenged. We will push for comprehensive law enforcement in terms of saving the lives of our people who die from tobacco and reducing the economic burden lost due to tobacco,” he added.
The study results on the Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Cambodia shows that 15,000 Cambodians have died each year due to tobacco-related diseases, which one-third of tobacco-related deaths were amongst the lowest-earning income quintile of Cambodia’s population.
The study said that tobacco-related illnesses cost the Cambodian economy approximately more than $649 million every year, equivalent to 3 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.