Vietnam needs to raise tobacco prices and taxes, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Vietnam, Angela Pratt, told a meeting in Hanoi this week to mark World No Tobacco Day [May 31] and the National No Tobacco Week from May 25-31.
Angela Pratt noted that tobacco sold in Vietnam is currently among the cheapest in the world and that smoking kills at least 40,000 people in Vietnam every year.
"The low taxes and prices have made it easier for young people to access and use tobacco, while making it harder for smokers to quit. Much remains to be done to reduce premature deaths from tobacco use and achieve the target of a 30% reduction in smoking prevalence in Vietnam by 2030," said the WHO official.
Dr. Angela Pratt, representative of the World Health Organization in Vietnam addresses the event. Photo: VNA
Speaking at the event, Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan cited WHO statistics, saying that tobacco-related diseases are currently responsible for the deaths of more than eight million people around the world each year, including some 1.2 million non-smokers who've been exposed to secondhand smoke.
"In Vietnam, tobacco prevention and control have achieved encouraging results. The prevalence of smoking among men decreased from 45.3% in 2015 to 42.3% in 2020. The rate of tobacco use among people aged 15-24 years fell to 13% in 2020 from 26% in 2015. It also decreased from 2.5% in 2014 to 1.9% in 2022 among people aged 13 to 15," Thuan said.
However, the Deputy Minister stressed that Vietnam is still one of the countries with the highest number of smokers in the world. In addition, products such as e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products and shisha, which are not licensed in Vietnam, have emerged in recent years. Trade and advertisement of these products are rampant, especially on the Internet. In particular, the rate of smoking e-cigarettes has increased 18 times.
He called on ministries, departments, and people's committees in provinces and cities to continue enforcing the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harm and to organize practical activities in response to World No Tobacco Day.
Participants in the meeting join a bicycle parade to convey the message of the World No Tobacco Day. Photo: VNA
WHO chose "We need food, not tobacco" as the theme for this year's World No Tobacco Day to encourage farmers around the world to grow sustainable and nutritious crops, to highlight the link between tobacco use, crop production and poverty, and to urge people to stop smoking in order to spend more on food.
In Vietnam, the Ministry of Health (MoH) launched the communication campaign "Say no to heat-not-burn tobacco and e-cigarettes to protect the young generation" with technical support from the Global Public Health Organization (Vital Strategies). Many communication activities will be organized to raise awareness among youth about the harmful effects of heat-not-burn tobacco and e-cigarettes to protect the health of themselves, their families and the community.
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha has just signed a decision approving a national strategic program to prevent and combat the use of e-cigarettes, shisha and other new tobacco products.
The decision is part of a comprehensive program proposed by the Ministry of Health to prevent the harmful effects of tobacco by 2030.
E-cigarettes carry a 5-15 times higher risk of cancer than tobaccos. Photo: benhviennhitrunguong.gov.vn
A MoH survey in 2022 found that 3.5% of people aged 13 to 15 were using e-cigarettes. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes contain glycerin and propylene glycol, which can become propylene oxide, a carcinogen, when heated and vaporized.
The decision will prevent the use of e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn cigarettes, shisha and other new tobacco products in the community, with the aim of reducing the smoking prevalence among males over 15 to below 39% and among females to below 1.4%.
It is also expected to prevent passive smoking in workplaces, restaurants, hotels, cafes and other public places.
Moreover, the Vietnamese Government is working to increase taxes on tobacco products and set minimum prices for them. Tobacco sales in duty-free shops will be strictly controlled and more no-smoking areas will be created. Online tobacco advertising will also be banned.