One thousand students in Da Nang perform a flashmob dance to celebrate World No Tobacco Day in Da Nang (Photo: VNA)

Da Nang (VNA) -
Although progress has been made in tobacco control, more efforts are needed on anti-tobacco measures and reduction of deaths related to smoking in Vietnam.

Dr Kidong Park, a representative of the World Health Orgnisation (WHO)’s western pacific region, made the remarks at an event marking World No Tobacco Day (May 31) and National No Tobacco Week in the central city of Da Nang on May 27.

“Vietnam has had some success in tobacco control, but it’s still not enough. The number of smokers is still high, with 45.3 percent of men smoking cigarettes. As part of a recent survey, 80 percent of people said they had seen smokers at restaurants and in public,” Park said.

“About 170,000 Vietnamese people died of cardiovascular, stroke and non-infectious diseases, of which 33 percent were related to smoking,” he said.

The tax on tobacco products needs to be increased and smoke-free environments should be the top priority at workplaces and in public as well as at tourism attractions around Vietnam.

He said the tax on tobacco in Vietnam is still low at 35 percent, in comparison with an average of 56 percent worldwide, while the WHO recommends a tax of 70 percent.

Park said Vietnam should levy a tax from 2,000 VND (0.08 USD) to 5,000 VND (0.22 USD) on each cigarette pack, while non-smoking environments should be promoted.

He suggested a communication campaign should be introduced, including the distribution of leaflets and signs in restaurants, hotels, workplaces, hospitals, schools and public sites.

Park said he still saw people in Da Nang and Hoi An – two popular tourism hubs in central Vietnam – smoking in restaurants and hotels, and said these places should be smoke-free zones.

According to WHO, Vietnamese people spend up to 31 trillion VND (1.36 billion USD) on cigarettes each year, while an annual 24 trillion VND (1.05 billion USD) of the State budget is reserved for new treatment of five disease groups out of 25 diseases related to smoking.

WHO also recommend that reducing the number of smokers in the community would help save 900,000 lives, while increasing tax revenue to 10.7 trillion VND (471.36 million USD) if the country applies a tax rate of 0.22 USD on each pack of cigarettes.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien said the Vietnamese Government has committed to strong controls on tobacco and reducing the number of smokers.

“We started the implementation of the Law on Tobacco Harm Control and Prevention, especially the expansion of non-smoking communities and the establishment of a Tobacco Harm Prevention Fund,” Tien said, adding that non-smoking environments have been promoted in different provinces and big cities.

“The number of student smokers (13-15 years old) had been reduced from 3.3 percent in 2007 to 2.5 percent in 2014, while second-hand smoke in workplaces decreased 13.3 percent and 15 percent on public transport,” Tien said.

The deputy minister said smokers in urban areas also dropped 6.5 percent following a survey released in 2014.

He said the World No Tobacco Day, themed ‘Tobacco breaks hearts’, aims to send a message to young people on the harmful consequence of smoking and increase awareness of the medical risks, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle among the younger generation.

According to the latest report from ministry of health, 63 provinces and cities in Vietnam have developed non-smoking areas, while 1,200 training courses on non-smoking have been carried out.

Smoking bans were instituted at 1,200 schools nationwide, and 51,000 labourers gave up smoking.

In 2017, more than 7,000 phone calls were placed for help on smoking addiction, while 8,400 patients were treated for cigarette addiction at nine hospitals.  

Tobacco kills seven million people each year, according to the WHO.-VNA