The Ministry of Health on May 30 held a meeting on the implementation of tax and retail price rises for tobacco products, in a bid to reduce consumption, in response to World No-Tobacco Day (May 31).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that tobacco smoking annually claims nearly 6 million lives around the world, including 600,000 who are killed by passive smoking, Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Xuyen stated at the meeting.

She expressed concern that the number is likely to reach 8 million by 2030. It is believed that up to 40,000 people die annually in Vietnam from smoking.

Vietnam ratified the WHO framework convention on tobacco control in 2004 and promulgated the law on prevention and control of tobacco harms in 2012, with a determination to protect local people’s health, Xuyen noted.

She called on ministries, agencies, organisations and individuals to work together to enforce no-smoking regulations at public places. Part of the law making smoking in bars and restaurants illegal has been largely ignored in many places.

The tobacco tax in Vietnam currently accounts for 41.6 percent of the retail price, a low rate compared to other countries, such as France (80 percent), Germany (73 percent) and Australia (60 percent).

Research on tobacco use among Vietnamese youth has shown that the smoking rate has increased. For example 21.6 percent of the nation’s smokers are young men aged from 16-24.

The total economic burden caused by the five main tobacco-related diseases in Vietnam was over 23 trillion VND (1.08 billion USD) in 2011, equivalent to 0.91 percent of the country’s GDP.

Thus, Xuyen declared that an increase in the tobacco tax is an important measure to restrict tobacco consumption among Vietnamese people, particularly youngsters.

To this effect, the ministry has proposed a road map for the increase of taxation on tobacco, the official added.

Under the plan, a special tobacco consumption tax would be imposed at 65 percent in 2015, gradually increase to 105 percent during the 2015-17 period, and reach 145 percent for the next two years. The ministry would also consider tax adjustments in 2020.

As a result, retail prices may rise by 21 percent and 17 percent for the 2015-17 period and the following two years, respectively, higher than the average per-capital income in the periods.

On the occasion, the ministry, in co-ordination with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, awarded prizes to nine winners of a competition to make video clips, photos and posters which depict the ill effects caused by smoking and appeal to local people to comply with the law on prevention and control of tobacco harms.-VNA