Nine out of 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered for the second meeting of focal points for tobacco control, which opened in Hanoi on May 11.

According to Vietnam ’s Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thi Xuyen, after ten years of implementation of the government’s policy on tobacco harm prevention, Vietnam had reduced the rate of male smokers from 56.1 percent in 2001 to 47.7 percent in 2010.

Smoking in public places was no longer accepted, Xuyen said, adding that the government had also increased tobacco tax.

Every year, the Health Ministry launches national no-tobacco week, she said.

Tobacco control, however, is a long-lasting task that requires the determination of not only Vietnam but also other countries in the region and worldwide, said the Deputy Minister, asking for close cooperation among ASEAN members.

To date, 172 countries, including nine ASEAN members, have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The head of a technical group on tobacco harm prevention and control of Thailand proposed the tobacco harm prevention programme be a topic for discussion at the ASEAN ministerial meetings once every two years.

The official also suggested the building of an ASEAN joint action plan strategy for tobacco harm prevention and the establishment of a rotating Chairmanship regime – with Vietnam as chair of the technical group in 2011.

At the conference, which will end on May 12, ASEAN countries will commit to becoming non-smoking nations and creating smoke free offices in the next five years./.