The Ministry of Health organised a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on May 30 in response to World No Tobacco Day (May 31) and the 2015 National No Tobacco Week (from May 25-31), calling for strong actions against tobacco use harms.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Xuyen said activities to create smoke-free environment are being strongly promoted in Vietnam, especially at educational establishments, hospitals, and workplaces, noting that 40 out of the 63 provinces and cities have set up steering boards for tobacco use harm prevention and control.

Smoking rate among juveniles aged 13-15 years declined to 2.5 percent in 2014 from 3.3 percent in 2007, showing Vietnam’s strong commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), she added.

WHO Deputy Chief Representative to Vietnam Gabit Ismailov said despite considerable strides made in tobacco prevention, Vietnam is still facing numerous challenges such as the violation of tobacco use ban at public places like restaurants or coffee shops.

He warned that Vietnam would fail to achieve the smoking reduction target set in its national tobacco prevention and control strategy if the tax on cigarettes was kept as low as the current level.

He called upon Vietnam to fully implement FCTC clauses, including those on protection from second-hand smoking, warning against tobacco use harms, and raising tax on cigarettes, which can help save 16,000 deaths from diseases caused by tobacco in the country every year.

Vietnam is currently one of the 15 countries with the highest smoker numbers. Smoking rate among the country’s adult males is as high as 47.7 percent.

Data show that more than 75 percent of deaths in Vietnam ever year are caused by non-communicable diseases, a number of which are attributed to tobacco use. Tobacco causes about 40,000 premature deaths, and healthcare costs and productivity loss due to tobacco use are estimated at more than 1 billion USD per year.

At the meeting, Deputy Minister Xuyen appealed to agencies, organisations and people nationwide to create smoke-free environment and strictly adhere to the law on tobacco harm prevention and control.

Following the event, some 1,000 people walked and cycled to popularise the message on preventing the harm of tobacco use.-VNA