If you’re a vaper and planning to visit Cambodia in the near future, this guide will aim to provide all the information you need to know.
You probably have questions about the availability of vape devices, liquids, and flavours in Cambodia, but before you start dreaming about all the exotic flavours you could discover, let me break the bad news to you: vaping is unfortunately banned there.
Vaping is double-banned!
Cambodia banned vaping back in 2014 along with shisha products. To top it off, just to prove how serious they were, they banned it again in 2021.
The Cambodian government is following recommendations and guidelines set by the World Health Organization. They use WHO’s talking points as the main arguments to justify banning what is arguably the most successful smoking cessation tool.
Vape sales are happening underground.
If you search for ‘vape shops near me’ on Google Maps, it does come back with results, but don’t bother making the trip. Vape shop raids are a recurring feature and right now, it’s impossible to find a physical shop. Most shops had to switch to online sales.
They use channels such as Telegram to communicate with potential customers, but buying vapes in this way can make you feel like a criminal. Not everyone would risk purchasing vapes in such a rogue manner and unfortunately, the hard work of quitting cigarettes remains a difficult, if not illegal, journey.
There are no legal measures against vapers
In Thailand, vapers could face fines and even go to jail. But unlike its neighbour, Cambodia doesn’t have legal measures to fine or arrest people caught vaping. If police officers catch people using e-cigarettes, what they do is confiscate devices.
The Cambodian government’s main battle against vaping by cracking down on the sales of vapes. They track and raid underground shops and warehouses, then confiscate and destroy vapes. Several sellers have been detained, but as there is no law to punish them, they’ve been let go after getting reprimanded and having signed a contract promising not to sell or use again.
Harm reduction is an unknown concept
Unfortunately, the harm reduction value of vape products is entirely excluded from the discussion. While we can applaud Cambodia’s willingness to protect youth from harm, we can’t overlook the fact that in doing so, they are stripping an efficient harm reduction tool away from people looking to quit smoking. Protecting youth can be done by restricting the sales age and educational campaigns, like is practiced in the UK and other countries.
Smoking-caused diseases claim the lives of over 15,000 Cambodians every year. In 2020, 21,1% of adults aged 15 and older were using tobacco products. Anti-vaping campaigners often use the argument that Cambodia suffers an annual economic loss of $663 million due to tobacco use. What they forget is that vape products can not be equated with tobacco products; first, they do not contain tobacco and thousands of other chemicals that can be found in cigarettes. Second, vaping is proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking. So if the goal is to decrease annual economic loss due to tobacco deaths, why not encourage smokers to switch to a product that will significantly improve the quality of their lives?
Sweden has set an excellent example in the fight against smoking by embracing harm reduction and encouraging the use of alternative nicotine products such as vaping and snus pouches. It has reduced its smoking rate to an astonishing 5%, making it one of the few countries in the world to achieve such a remarkable feat.
If Cambodia wants to do right by its citizens, and the tourists who travel here, it and other countries in the region should follow Sweden’s lead and embrace harm reduction. Legalize vaping so users don’t feel like criminals. Give smokers an off-ramp that will vastly improve their lives.