Illustrative image (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Vietnam has seen a marginal 2 percent decline in the number of cigarette smokers since the Law on Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control took effects six years ago, heard a conference held in Ho Chi Minh City on May 10 to seek measures to improve the efficiency of the law’s implementation.

According to Hoang Thi Huong from the Ministry of Health, Vietnam is among 15 countries with the highest ratio of cigarette-smokers in the world, with about 17 million smokers. Up to 45 percent of mature men and 1.1 percent of mature women are smokers.  

The number of passive smokers is about 33 million, she said, stressing that each year, about 40,000 people die of cigarette-related diseases, much higher than those losing their lives due to traffic accidents and HIV/AIDS.

However, public awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco remains modest and smoking in public places is still popular. As such, after six years of realising the law, the ratio of smokers declined by a minimal 2 percent, Huong stressed.

Dr Nguyen Trong An, Vice Director of the Research and Training Centre for Community Development, said that in Vietnam, tobacco is a product that is easy to buy and be seen, with lower prices than other countries in the region and no special consumption tax.

He pointed out that in 2015, the tobacco industry only contributed some 15 trillion VND (642.85 million USD) to the state budget, while the amount that people spent on cigarettes was 55 trillion VND (almost 2.36 billion USD), and the money spent for treatment of cigarette-caused diseases was 24 trillion VND (1.02 billion USD).

An held that in order to reduce the ratio of smokers, it is crucial to apply a special consumption tax on tobacco products and raise their prices to reduce consumption.

Meanwhile, Ngo Huy Toan from the Ministry of Information and Communications said that the advertisement of cigarettes in mainstream media has been limited. However, the ads are still popular online and in restaurants and hotels, he said.

The showcasing of cigarettes in shops has not been deterred, not to mention tobacco firms’ measures to take advantage of legal loopholes to conduct advertisement and marketing of their products, Toan added.

He proposed stricter measures in the implementation of the Law on Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control in the future, along with the enhancement of communications to raise public awareness on the harmfulness of cigarettes to the health of both smokers and the wider community.–VNA