Việt Nam needs a legal framework for new-generation cigarettes, say experts

November, 12/2020 - 19:32

Việt Nam should not legalise the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated-tobacco-products (HTPs) immediately but conduct a pilot phase allowing the production, import and trading of this new-generation cigarettes in the country, officials have said.

The workshop on the legal framework of new-generation cigarettes is held in the context that the Government is instructing the Ministry of Industry and Trade to urgently propose a specific management policy for new-generation cigarettes.— VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam should not legalise the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated-tobacco-products (HTPs) immediately but conduct a pilot phase allowing the production, import and trading of this new-generation cigarettes in the country, officials have said.

Representatives from various agencies of the Government were speaking at a workshop on the legal framework for new-generation cigarettes in Việt Nam, held by Pháp Luật Việt Nam (Vietnam Law) Newspaper in Hà Nội on Wednesday.

The representatives said e-cigarettes and HTPs were the result of the global application of technology and still very new to Việt Nam's tobacco industry and regulators.

In Việt Nam, these products have appeared in many different channels, from traditional stores to e-commerce websites and social networks. The products have been smuggled and illegally traded in the country and the frequency and number of seizures of e-cigarettes and HTPs sales has gradually increased.

The impact of HTPs and e-cigarettes on young people is a controversial issue as the health effects of those products remain uncertain. It is unknown whether it is less harmful than smoking tobacco, and how to manage such new-generation cigarettes when they are not regulated.

The pilot is expected to provide the Government and authorities with sufficient information, helping them accurately assess the socio-economic impact of the legalisation of these products in Việt Nam.

The legal framework built upon these assessments should then complement the national strategy on tobacco harm reduction, ensuring the reconciliation of interests of stakeholders, including the State, consumers and tobacco producers and gardeners, and consistency with international practices.

Nguyễn Quỳnh Liên, deputy head of the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal and Administrative Legislation Department, said the current Law on Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control and Decree No.77/2013/NĐ-CP had provided measures to prevent and combat tobacco harms, including regulations on smoking detoxification and the ban on smoking cigarettes in public places.

However, these regulations are currently mainly applied to traditional cigarettes. “For new-generation cigarettes, due to the differences in product characteristics compared to traditional cigarettes, it is necessary to study carefully to come up with a suitable management mechanism,” Liên added.

Sharing the same view with Liên, Nguyễn Kỳ Minh, the Deputy Chief of Office of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s General Department of Market Management, said the current law did not have sanctions on handling new-generation cigarettes so the market watch force could only handle these products as goods manufactured by foreign countries being traded in Việt Nam without invoices and documents proving their origin.

“We need to have a legal framework for this item, giving specific and valid penalties for related violations,” Minh said.

A report of the market watch forces showed in the first eight months of this year, the forces nationwide tackled more than 8,300 cases, confiscating more than 8 million packages of smuggled cigarettes of all kinds, of which the volume of new-generation cigarettes was seen increasing rapidly.

Lê Thành Hưng, an official from the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, said his ministry agreed with the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s report on the results of research on new-generation cigarettes.

“After studying, we agreed that it’s needed to soon review and build legal documents and policies on the management of e-cigarettes and HTPs in Việt Nam, which must be suitable with the country’s development,” Hưng said.

Hưng said many countries across the world had issued standards for new-generation tobacco products. “On the international level, organisations such as the International Organisation for Standardisation, Cooperation Centre for Scientific Research Relative to Tobacco and European Committee for Standardisation have also issued standards for new-generation cigarettes, including technical requirements and testing method standards," he said.

Meanwhile, members of the Vietnam Tobacco Association worried about the illegal import of new-generation cigarettes to Việt Nam, threatening domestic production of traditional cigarettes. The members agreed that both HTPs and e-cigarettes needed to go through a pilot phase before building the legal framework applicable because it has directly impacted the business activities of traditional tobacco producers.

Phùng Đức Thịnh, the authorised representative of the Vietnam Tobacco Association, said the domestic tobacco industry needed at least 12 months to prepare for competitiveness and to create stability before the Government allows the new-generation products to be imported, traded and distributed in Việt Nam.

In the case of Japan, one of the first markets for new-generation cigarettes, the output of traditional cigarettes had suffered a dramatic decline when the new-generation products were launched.

“We strongly hope the Government will create conditions to allow domestic tobacco enterprises to invest in suitable machinery and equipment for the production of e-cigarettes and HTPs,” Thịnh said.

In 2019, the association paid to the State budget VNĐ18.4 trillion, including import tax, according to Trần Tuyết Trang, an official from the General Department of Taxation’s Tax Policy Department. – VNS

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