|People ride bikes and walk to celebrate World No Tobacco Day in Hà Nội. —VNA/VNS Photo Dương Ngọc|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam loses more than VNĐ24.6 trillion (US$1.08 billion) per year on tobacco, accounting for almost 0.97 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a World Health Organisation report said.
This includes medical costs of tobacco-related diseases, reduced productivity due to sick leave or early death.
Speaking at a meeting last week ahead of World No Tobacco Day (May 31), Health Minister Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến said Việt Nam has showed strong commitment to prevent and control tobacco use by ratifying WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, issuing the Law on Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control and establishing a fund on tobacco prevention and control.
The Ministry of Health has also cooperated with ministries, agencies, civil organisations and people’s committees in raising public awareness on the ill-effects of tobacco and the importance of building a smoke-free environment, she said.
In the last 10 years, the rate of young smokers in Việt Nam has dropped from 3.3 per cent in 2007 to 2.5 per cent in 2017.
The percentage of passive smokers among Vietnamese students has reduced 18.8 per cent and the number of male smokers in cities has declined 6.5 per cent.
However, she said Việt Nam still has a high rate of smokers.
“People can easily buy tobacco at public places, especially at restaurants, bars or entertainment areas, which is hindering the joint efforts to reduce smoking,” Tiến said.
“In the future, using the fund on tobacco prevention and control, the Health Ministry expects to better assist agencies and localities to enforce related laws, expand a smoke-free environment and improve skills of those working on communicating the ill-effects of tobacco,” she added.
At the event, Tiến also called on people, especially the youth to say “no” to smoking to protect themselves and to ensure good health.
Lokky Wai, WHO’s representative to Việt Nam, said losses caused by tobacco use have gone beyond the scale of community heath. Tobacco use has become a barrier to sustainable development in fields such as food security, gender equality, education, economic growth and environmental protection.
According to the WHO, more than seven million deaths occur from tobacco use every year across the globe, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than eight million per year by 2030 without intensified actions. Tobacco use is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease and death, impoverishing families and national economies.
Tobacco use has led to losses worth over $1.4 trillion worldwide yearly and developing countries including Việt Nam bear 40 per cent of the losses.
He suggested the Vietnamese Government and related partners make joint efforts to reduce tobacco use by increasing the tax on tobacco, which could lead to reduction in demand for tobacco products while ensuring the health of the Vietnamese people.
Tobacco tax in Việt Nam is some 40 per cent of the retail tobacco price, 18 per cent lower than the world’s average rate and much low than WHO’s recommendation of 75 per cent.
The World No Tobacco Day 2017 campaign, themed “Tobacco - A threat to Development,” demonstrates and raises awareness about the threat that the tobacco industry poses to sustainable development of all countries, including the health and economic wellbeing of their citizens. — VNS