As his third and final class of monks completed the ‘Khmer Quit Now’ programme – Roth Saroeun, Venerable Heal Monk of the Samrong Andet Pagoda, declared his pagoda smoke free. 82 monks at the pagoda had pledged themselves to fight their addiction and quit smoking, creating a ‘smoke-free pagoda’ and setting an example to the rest of Cambodian society. “According to Buddhist precept, as a monk, we should take care of our personal hygiene as well as the hygiene of society,” announced Saroeun. The Buddhist monks are now spearheading the campaign to persuade Cambodians to give up tobacco – a tough assignment in a country with one of the highest rates of smoking in the world and life expectancy of only 54 years. There are no health warnings on tobacco products in Cambodia, and no bans on sales to minors. Since 1993 there’s been a ban on tobacco advertising on the public broadcast media. But it doesn’t apply to private media, with surveys showing cigarette ads on television and radio quadrupling since 1996, tobacco advertising accounting for 46 per cent of all street advertising, and Japan Tobacco even advertising its Mild Seven cigarettes on ice cream vans.
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