A man smokes a cigarette at a bus shelter near Mỹ Đình Bus Station in Hà Nội. Việt Nam remains among the 15 nations having the highest number of tobacco smokers in the world. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết
Lương Ngọc Khuê, director general of the Medical Examination and Treatment Department and director of the Việt Nam Tobacco Control Fund, under the Ministry of Health, speaks to Hà Nội Mới (New Hà Nội) newspaper about his organisation’s efforts to create a smoke-free environment
What success has Việt Nam has gained since the first comprehensive tobacco control law came into effect on May 1, 2013?
Việt Nam has recorded a lot of changes in public awareness about the negative impacts of tobacco. Since the law came into effect, the percentage of male smokers has dropped by 2.1 per cent while that of the female smokers dropped by 0.3 per cent. Also the passive smoking percentage has dropped considerably – from 42.6 per cent in the work place to 13.3 per cent; from 37.9 per cent in universities and colleges to 16.4 per cent; in the family environment, the ratio dropped from 59.9 per cent to 13.2 per cent.
How do you respond to a report saying that by now the implementation of the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harms is still very limited?
I couldn’t agreement more. Though we have achieved many successes in the prevention and control of tobacco, Việt Nam remains among the 15 nations having the highest number of tobacco smokers in the world. According to the latest report, some 45.3 per cent of Vietnamese men are tobacco smokers. And it is reported that every year, Việt Nam has about 40,000 people who dies of an illness relating to smoking. Though Việt Nam has the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harm, yet, tobacco is available in almost all places. This is something that Việt Nam should put more effort to enforce the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harms in reality. Particularly in areas surrounding hotels, restaurants, schools and hospitals.
What should be done to people who are found smoking in a place where it is prohibited?
The Ministry of Health has submitted a proposal to the Government to levy a heavy fine on smokers who are found violating the smoking law. We hope, pretty soon the Government will start to impose heavy sanctions on those who violate the Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harms. The Fund on the Prevention and Against Tobacco Harms will soon develop an app on mobile phones to receive reports of people violating the law.
What is the driving force for the World Health Organization (WHO) to decide to observe 2020 as the year to protect the younger generation from the negative impacts of tobacco products?
We all know, young people are the future of all nations in the world and they are the most vulnerable people to tobacco advertisements. Through this topic, WHO has called on all countries worldwide to take immediate actions to help young people not to be seduced by tobacco advertisements and to understand the negative impacts of tobacco on their health.
Can you give us a real picture of the young Vietnamese smokers today?
The percentage of young Vietnamese smokers has dropped quite considerably. However, the number of Vietnamese young people, particularly among the students smoking e-cigarettes has increased. According to a recent survey conducted by WHO in 21 provinces and cities nationwide, the percentage of students smoking has dropped from 4 per cent to 3.6 per cent. Yet the number of e-cigarette smokers has increased by 2.6 per cent. What’s more important is the new cigarette products are rather attractive to the young generation. That’s why they don’t care much about negative impacts on their health the new product may have.
What should Việt Nam do to make the campaign against smoking cigarettes more successful?
E-cigarettes have been banned in many countries. And right now, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has conducted a study and come up with a proposal to include e-cigarettes in the list of banned items - in both business and consumption. At the same time, the MoH has also submitted a proposal to revise the Law on Special Consumption Tax to increase the consumption tax on cigarettes.
Meanwhile, the MoH has also asked the Ministry of Information and Communications to take strong measures to control cigarette advertisement on the internet. — VNS