Smokers who light up inside bars, restaurants, hotels and other establishment where the public gathers will face fines of 20,000 riel (about $5) starting September 16, the Ministry of Tourism announced on Wednesday.
The deadline will also mark the beginning of the enforcement of a broader Council of Ministers sub-decree banning smoking in all public places, according to a government spokesman.
A man lights a cigarette in Phnom Penh last year. (Matt Walker)Hor Sarun, an undersecretary of state at the Tourism Ministry, said the ministry would be in charge of educating and enforcing the smoking ban at all entertainment and hospitality venues, and that the rules would help draw tourists.
“Cigarette smoke is a hidden killer of both smokers and those around them, and most tourists do not like that,” Mr. Sarun said on the sidelines of a workshop about the new rules at the Ministry of Health.
Establishments that do not post required anti-smoking signs or that allow smoking within 5 meters of the entrance, will face fines of 50,000 riel, or about $12.50, and could lose their operating licenses, he said.
Mr. Sarun said the ministry would work with local NGOs to educate business owners and their customers on the law, which will also apply to venues that cater largely to Cambodians, including beer gardens and karaoke parlors.
“We will use media in each municipality and province to raise public awareness, and we will arrange meetings like workshops and public forums,” he said.
Som Chenda, director of the Kep provincial tourism department, said during the workshop that the Tourism Ministry would need to be careful not to discourage investment or risk turning off potential visitors.
“If the private sector makes mistakes and then we penalize them or revoke their licenses, I don’t think this will be a mechanism to attract investment,” Mr. Chenda said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed that the Tourism Ministry’s effort was part of a countywide ban on smoking in public spaces first passed by the Council of Ministers in March and signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former smoker.
“The law will be enforced by cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism,” Mr. Siphan said.
The Ministry of Health announced that it would begin enforcing the ban in May but has yet to do so.
Hang Sy, co-owner of Mtes Tom restaurant in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district, said his local and foreign customers already did their smoking outside out of courtesy for other diners.
“They don’t want to disturb others, so they come outside to smoke, and after, they come back in,” he said on Wednesday, predicting that the smoking crackdown would not be widely enforced.
sothear@cambodiadaily.com, paviour@cambodiadaily.com
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