An increase in the tobacco tax will help reduce the number of smokers in Vietnam , according to an overview survey on tobacco tax in Vietnam conducted by the Public Health University on March 9 in Hanoi.

"The low price of tobacco is one of the reasons for the increasing number of smokers in Vietnam ," said a member of the survey group, Nguyen Tuan Lam.
"The tax on tobacco was set at 45 percent of the retail price, lower than the 65-80 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO)," Lam said.

According to statistics from the National Tobacco Prevention Programme, Viet Nam is burdened with uncontaminated diseases, including those relating to tobacco. Health authorities estimate that there were about 40,000 smoking fatalities in 2008, and the number would increase to 50,000 per year by 2023.
"In Vietnam, a 10 cent increase in the tobacco tax would reduce consumption by at least 5 percent, stop 300,000 smokers, save 100,000 from dying and make nearly 1.9 trillion VND (100 million USD) in taxes to the Government budget," said Lam.

In Vietnam , nearly 50 percent of men smoke, 65 per cent of them aged 25-45. Medical spending relating to cancer and heart and lung diseases reached over 75 million USD in 2005.

"Tobacco prevention measures have been applied in Vietnam before. However, they've mostly been ineffective," said the rector of the Public Health University, Le Vu Anh.

Researchers said that money spent on food instead of tobacco could help 11.2 percent of poor families move above the poverty line. A reduction in tobacco consumption would also help improve health conditions, which in turn would help reduce tobacco- and smoking-related diseases.
The survey also recommended raising the tax on “thuoc lao” (a kind of Vietnamese tobacco smoked via a bamboo pipe) to 1,000 VND/100 gram. The item is currently tax-free.

Research from the World Bank said that a 10 percent increase in the tobacco tax would reduce 4 percent of the demand in high-income countries and 8 percent in medium- and low-income countries, though sales would still increase about 7 percent. Money saved by people giving up cigarettes would be spent on other goods and help create jobs and increase taxes for governments./.