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Vietnam needs urgent regulatory framework to control e-cigarettes: Officials
Anh Kiet 21:31, 2024/05/07
Most e-cigarettes contain toxic substances such as nicotine, metal, and formaldehyde, causing loss of control, lack of concentration, and impaired memory.

Vietnam urgently needs a legal framework for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated tobacco products (HTPs), officials have said.

Representatives from various Vietnamese government agencies spoke at a briefing on the legal framework for e-cigarettes and HTPs in the country, held in Hanoi last weekend.

"These products are smuggled and traded illegally in Vietnam through many different channels, from traditional stores to e-commerce websites and social networks. The frequency and number of seizures of e-cigarettes and HTP sales have increased recently," said Dang Thuan Phong, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Social Affairs. 

 Electronic cigarettes with many eye-catching designs. Photo: Theregreview.org

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has proposed a ban on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, while the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) wants to legalize them. So Phong asked the heads of the two ministries to explain their conflicting views.

"The harmful effects of e-cigarettes and HTPs are obvious, so they must be banned," said Health Minister Dao Hong Lan.

Deputy Minister of Education Nguyen Thi Kim Chi also expressed her deep concern about the harmful effects of e-cigs and HTP on students.

"These e-cigarettes not only have a tremendously negative impact on students' physical and mental health but also cause a lifestyle disorder that can lead to the violation of social order and security. Therefore, we support the ban on the production, trade, and advertising of e-cigarettes and HTPs," Chi said.

Do Chi Nghia, Member of the National Assembly's Culture and Education Committee, said that e-cigarettes and HTPs are often drugs in disguise. He is concerned that these cigarettes harm the reproductive health of female users.

Concluding the meeting, Nguyen Thuy Anh, Chairwoman of the National Assembly's Committee on Social Affairs, suggested that in 2024, the MoH should coordinate with relevant ministries to review legal documents on the prevention and control of harmful effects of e-cigarettes and HTPs for amendments to the current law.

In addition, ministries need to improve communication to raise awareness, especially among young people, about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and HTPs, and regularly inspect and crack down on the illegal trade of these products, Thuy Anh stressed.

Risks concerning e-cigarettes and HTPs in Vietnam

The emergence of e-cigarettes and HTPs is increasing smoking rates, especially among young people. Because e-cigarettes tend to have flashy and fashionable designs and are advertised as "less harmful", they are attractive to young people. 

 E-cigarettes pose a 5 to 15 times higher risk of cancer than tobacco. Photo: VNA

Tran Thi Trang, Deputy Director of the MoH's Legal Department, said Vietnam was among the 15 countries with the highest number of smokers in the world.

"The rate of e-cigarette use among adult males is 5.6%, while the rate among adult females is 1%. Roughly speaking, after only five years, the rate of e-cigarette use in Vietnam has increased 36.5 times for both sexes, 22.75 times for men and 46 times for women. Especially in cities, the rate of new tobacco users tends to increase, especially among schoolchildren, students, and young people," Trang told The Hanoi Times.

According to a survey conducted by the Vietnam Public Health Association in 2023, the percentage of people aged 15-24 using e-cigarettes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was 7.3%, with over 9% of males and almost 5% of females.

Another study on health risk behaviors among secondary school students in Hanoi, conducted last year by the MoH's Health Strategy and Policy Institute, found that the rate of e-cigarette use was more than 8% among 8th-12th graders and nearly 13% among 10th-12th graders.

A further survey by the MoH in 2023 found that 3.5% of people aged 13 to 15 were using e-cigarettes. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes contain glycerine and propylene glycol, which can form propylene oxide, a carcinogen, when heated and vaporized.

Currently, the production and trade of e-cigarettes and HTPs are not officially allowed in Vietnam. However, it is not difficult to buy these products in shops or via online platforms, especially if you live in large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

H.T., a salesman at a chain of e-cigarette stores in Hanoi, told The Hanoi Times that his business offers a range of e-cigarettes and HTPs priced between VND350,000 and VND2 million (US$14-US$79), excluding essential oils. "These items are sold not only in our shops but also on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Zalo, Instagram, and others. I have no way of knowing their traceability," said H.T.

In Vietnam, there have been many cases of e-cigarette intoxication among young people.

TAG: Vietnam news Vietnam\'s legal framework e-cigarettes
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