May 25, 2023
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam is among the 15 countries with the largest number of adult male smokers in the world mainly due to easy access to cigarettes triggered by the low tobacco tax and emergence of various types of e-cigarettes, according to a health official.
The reduction in the rate of smokers in the country had not yet reached the target set out in the Strategy on Prevention and Control of Tobacco’s Harmful Effects, Lương Ngọc Khuê, head of the Health Ministry’s Department of Medical Service Administration, said at a workshop held on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Information and Communications held the workshop in coordination with the Ministry of Health on the prevention and control of tobacco’s harmful effects.
Mentioning the low reduction rate of smokers, Khuê said the main reason was that Việt Nam’s tobacco tax was very low.
He said that low cigarette prices increased the ability to access and buy tobacco among young people and the poor.
In addition, new and diversified e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products appeared on the market, making it easy for many people, especially young people, to access cigarettes easily.
Worldwide, smoking leads to 8 million deaths a year. Among them 1 million die due to passive smoking.
According to WHO estimates, smoking causes economic losses of US$1.4 trillion globally.
Tobacco is also the reason for deforestation and increasing environmental pollution.
Every year about 5 per cent of the forest area is cleared to grow tobacco.
It is estimated that each year 18 billion trees are needed to make firewood for tobacco drying, the use of tobacco releases into the environment 3,000-6,000 tonnes of formaldehyde, 12,000-47,000 tonnes of nicotine and 300-600 million kilos of toxic substances from cigarette butts.
Over the years, the prevention and control of tobacco’s harmful effects in Việt Nam have achieved many remarkable results, according to Khuê.
Compared to 2015, the rate of tobacco use among Vietnamese men decreased from 45.3 per cent to 42.3 per cent.
WHO estimates that Việt Nam has avoided 280,000 premature deaths from tobacco use-related diseases.
The cost saved thanks to reduced rates of diseases caused by tobacco use in the 2015-2020 period is nearly VNĐ1.3 trillion a year.
Speaking at the workshop, Director of HealthyBridge Canada Vietnam Nguyễn Thị An emphasised the harmful effects of tobacco on people’s health, especially children.
For families, having a member who uses tobacco would take away a significant part of their income, which could be used to invest in education and health.
In Việt Nam, in 2020, spending on tobacco was VNĐ49 trillion. The total cost of treatment and costs due to inability to work due to illness and premature deaths for 5 out of 25 groups of diseases caused by tobacco was VNĐ24 trillion.
An recommended that Việt Nam strengthen the implementation of the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harmful Effects.
The country should also step up inspection, examination and strictly handle violations, focusing on handling violations of places where the use, advertising, promotion and sponsorship and trading of cigarettes are prohibited.
Việt Nam also needed to raise the special consumption tax on cigarettes to prevent an increase in purchasing power and limit young people’s access to cheap cigarettes.
Using tax and price policies was a highly effective solution in reducing tobacco consumption recommended by WHO and the World Bank, she said.
The Government should also issue a policy to ban the circulation of electric cigarettes and heated cigarette products as recommended by the Ministry of Health and WHO.
It should also strengthen communication to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products; as well as improve communication about the responsibilities of parents, teachers, and adults in protecting children from the harmful effects of tobacco. — VNS