The Government’s ban on smoking in public places took effect on January 1 but around the country, people can still be found smoking in parks, stations and hospitals.

Eight of 10 interviewed smokers at Saint Paul Hospital in Hanoi said they did not know about the ban while another two said they did not care. Between blowing smoke rings, Nguyen Van Long, 43, said: “I heard about the ban, but it’s cold now and I need a smoke.” Others agreed with Long and kept smoking after being informed of the ban.

Saint Paul Hospital is one of thousands of hospitals and health clinics that fall under the list of public places where smoking is prohibited. According to the decision, people are not allowed to smoke in public places such as schools, health clinics, cinemas and stations. Violations of the ban can be met with a fine of 50,000 – 100,000 VND (2.7-5.4 USD).

In addition to the smokers interviewed, managers of public places also denied knowledge of the ban and were unsure how to implement it.

“There is no official demand for smoking rooms in our workplace,” said Nguyen Duc Vui, head of the Gia Lam Bus Station’s monitoring committee.

While the Ministry of Health is assigned with the responsibility of enforcing the ban, Nguyen Minh Hung, chief inspector of the HCM City Health Department, said: “There are too many smokers but too few inspectors,” adding that “even if we mobilised all the health staff of the country, we wouldn’t have enough to enforce the ban.”

Before legislating the ban, the Government and relevant agencies should have a prepared an effective implementation plan, said Nguyen Trong Hoang, deputy director of the HCM City Health Education and Communication Centre.

The ban comes at a time when, according to the Ministry of Health, Vietnam is one of the nations with the highest rates of smokers in the world. Up to 53 percent of the mature males are estimated to be regular smokers./.