The law on prevention and control of the harmful effects of tobacco came into force last May, but its enforcement leaves much to be desired.

People puffing at cigarettes are a common sight in many public places such as bus and train stations, unwittingly breaking the law by ignoring the no-smoking signs.

The law prohibits smoking on buses and airplanes, as well as in indoor spaces at bus and train stations and ports, while stipulating that there must be separate smoking areas on ships and trains.

The Government’s Decree 176/2013/ND-CP imposes warnings or fines of between 100,000-300,000 VND (4.7-14.2 USD) for violations of no-smoking area regulations.

However, not many people are aware of these rules.

“Actually I do not know the details of the law and still smoke everywhere I want, if there is a physical no-smoking sign ,” said Nguyen Anh Cuong in Hanoi .

For the transport service sector, where 80 percent of the workforce is male, with many of them smokers, problems remain in enforcing the law.

Ho Huu Hoa, Deputy Director of the Legal Department under the Ministry of Transport, admitted that smoking is still rampant in many offices, stations and on public transport. On the bright side, the smoking ban has been effectively implemented at airports and during flights, showing that this is not an impossible task.

Hoa added that the ministry will step up efforts in enforcing the law on prevention and control of the harmful effects of tobacco in the time to come, including issuing detailed tasks in this field for officials in sectors and advising passengers on the smoking ban.

According to Pham Hoang Anh, Country Director of HealthBridge Canada in Vietnam , tight regulations will help enforce the law effectively. She suggested such measures as defining no-smoking areas, assigning specific tasks to management officials and publicising the rules, as well as on-the-spot collection of fines.

The rate of smoking among men above 15 years old in Vietnam was more than 47 percent in 2010, according to a global survey conducted in that year, making it one of the top 15 countries with the highest number of smokers in the world. The country, which has a population of 90 million, also reported a high rate of passive smokers, with an estimated 38 million non-smokers suffering from second-hand smoking at work and at home.

The health ministry reported that tobacco use causes 40,000 deaths in the country each year.-VNA