Challenges remain in prevention and control of tobacco

May 31, 2022 - 11:34
A drop has been reported in the number of male adult smokers, but challenges remain in the prevention and control of the dangers of tobacco.


Border guards in southern Bình Phước Province seized smuggled tobacco on May 4. — VNA/VNS Photo 

HÀ NỘI —  A drop has been reported in the number of male adult smokers, but challenges remain in the prevention and control of the dangers of tobacco.

Associate Professor Dr. Lương Ngọc Khuê, Director of the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund (VNTCF), said that one of the major reasons behind the situation was inadequate tax on tobacco products.

According to the Law on Special Consumption Tax, currently, the tax on cigarettes in Việt Nam is 75 per cent of the ex-factory price.

If calculated on the retail price, this tax was only 36.1 per cent, leading to low prices of cigarette products, making them very cheap to purchase, he said.

The increase of new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and shisha also hindered prevention tasks and it remained easy for people to get access to cigarette products which were sold widely across the country.

He has also noted that at present, there are no regulations in regard to licensing cigarette sales at stores. The license and management of cigarette retail stores will be an effective measure to cut down the number of retail shops, helping to reduce consumers' access to tobacco products.

The message about the health dangers of tobacco printed on tobacco packaging introduced for five years has had little effect.

Evidence from around the world shows the impact of large areas of warning images on the packaging of tobacco products on smokers' awareness and behaviour. These images, together with messages, could increase smokers' desire to quit smoking and reduce the rate of those starting to smoke. The area of visual warnings on the current pack in Việt Nam is only 50 per cent, which is still small compared to that of other countries in the region such as Laos, Brunei and Myanmar with the rate of 75 per cent.

"Experience from other countries reveals that as tobacco is an addictive product, the prevention and control is a long-term programme that requires strong policies about tax increase, building a smoke-free environment and effective communications," Khuê said.

"A complete ban on all types of tobacco advertisements and promotion campaigns is also needed." 

A survey on smoking among adults carried out in 2020 showed the ratio of adult men who smoked decreased from 45.3 per cent in 2015 to 42.3.

Public awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco also improved in the 2015-2020 period, with 96.2 per cent of people believing smoking causes lung cancer, 81.1 per cent saying smoking causes strokes, 77.8 per cent believing smoking causes heart attacks, and 72.2 per cent saying smoking causes all three diseases.

Meanwhile, 65.2 per cent of people had heard of the Law on Prevention of Tobacco Harms, said Khuê, who held that this was an encouraging result to prevent and control the harmful effects of tobacco in Việt Nam.

He said that currently, the VNTCF was supporting more than 100 agencies, including ministries, sectors, socio-political organisations, cities and provinces and hospitals to conduct activities related to the prevention and control of tobacco harms.

A report showed that in the 2019-2020 period, non-smoking regulations were implemented in 7,957 kindergartens, 7,846 primary schools, 4,606 secondary schools, 1,318 high schools, 202 universities and colleges, 598 provincial and district hospitals, 4,325 factories, 371 hotels and 513 restaurants.

The Ministry of Health and the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee held a ceremony in Hà Nội on Saturday to mark World No Tobacco Day (May 31) and National No Tobacco Week. — VNS