A seminar is being held in Hanoi from Sept. 15- 16 by the Health Ministry and the American Cancer Society for the media to exchange experiences on communications works on smoking.

Vietnam is one of countries in the world with the highest rate of male smokers (56 percent).

Ly Ngoc Kinh, Head of the Treatment Department under the Health Ministry, said that the number of deaths from smoking-related diseases was estimated at about 30,000-40,000 a year in Vietnam. In addition, the money spent to buy tobacco and treat diseases related to smoking constitutes an economic burden on individuals, families, and the society as a whole.

In 2007 only, Vietnamese people spent as much as 14 trillion VND (784 million USD) on tobacco and over 1 trillion VND (56 million USD) on treating tobacco-related diseases.

The Vietnamese Government has committed to campaign against the evils of tobacco and was the 47th among 160 countries to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. On August 21, 2008, the Prime Minister approved the plan to implement this convention.

Nevertheless, officials from the Health Ministry said that the success of implementation of the plan depends on many elements, especially the attitude and support of the public.

As in may other countries, in Vietnam , the media plays an important role in disseminating information, and raising consciousness among policy makers and the general public. According to Ly Ngoc Kinh, in order to effectively control tobacco, strictly-implemented state laws must go hand-in-hand with the participation of mass media agencies, in order to rally strong support from the people.

Vietnam ’s efforts to fight tobacco also face many challenges such as free trade, smuggling and transnational tobacco advertisement.

On the global scale, with over 5 million deaths a year due to diseases relating to tobacco, smoking is now acknowledged as a major burden on the world’s health care system, as well as exacerbating poverty. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the number of fatalities would hit 10 million in 2030.

The WHO also expressed the concern that in recent years, while the number of smokers has fallen in developed countries, it has increased in developing ones, especially among the poor and low income earners./.