Illustrative image. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – A three-month social media campaign against smoking was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vietnam in partnership with key tobacco control partners in Hanoi on September 27.

Themed “#Respect,” the campaign aims to promote a smoke-free environment to protect and improve public health.

It calls on everyone, smokers and non-smokers, to respect the law on tobacco control and respect their and others’ health by ending indoor smoking at public spaces to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke.

The hashtag #Respect was created to help people spread anti-smoking messages on social networks and the public is encouraged to support the campaign by sharing posts, making supportive comments and creating tobacco-related stories with the hashtag.

The campaign’s launch coincided with the third United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York. “This way, we also aim to highlight how smoking remains one of the leading causes of NCDs, and call for political commitment and public support to address the challenge,” said Dr Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam.

#Respect is a collaborative campaign among organisations championing tobacco-free initiatives in the country. Joining the WHO are Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK), Community Research and Development Services (CDS), the Development and Policies Research Center (DEPOCEN), Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH), HealthBridge Vietnam, Thuongmai University, Vietnam Public Health Association (VPHA) and Vital Strategies.

"There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke," said Tom Carroll, Senior Advisor, Policy, Advocacy and Communication, Vital Strategies. "Engaging social media users and encouraging non-smokers to speak up will help improve compliance with Vietnam's smoke-free laws, protecting the health of smokers and non-smokers, especially women and children.”

According to the WHO, some 40,000 people in Vietnam die each year from tobacco-related diseases, such as strokes and coronary artery diseases. Thirty percent of all heart disease deaths are caused by smoking.

Almost one in two adult males (45.3 percent) in the country are smokers. In addition, nearly 34.5 million non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoking at home, at restaurants, hotels and in the workplace.

Vietnam is among countries in the Western Pacific Region that have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It obliges countries to take steps to reduce the demand for and supply of tobacco products. This includes protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, requiring health warnings on tobacco packaging and increasing tobacco taxes.

In 2013, Vietnam also launched the National Strategy on Tobacco Control through 2020, which aims to reduce the smoking rate among youths and adolescents between 15-24 years old from 26 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2020, and among adult males from 47.4 percent in 2011 to 39 percent in 2020.  The Tobacco Control Law took effect in the country the same year, prohibiting smoking in indoor public and workplaces.

Thanks to actions made by the Government and tobacco control partners, the prevalence of indoor second-hand smoke exposure in most places significantly declined from 2010 to 2015, including in the home (73 percent down to 59 percent), workplace (55 percent to 42 percent), and public transportation (34 percent to 19 percent). However, exposure prevalence remained high at restaurants (80 percent). –VNA