Vietnam has striven hard to reduce the number of traditional cigarette smokers by 1% – 2% a year, but it is nothing compared to a sharp increase in the number of e-cigarette and heat-not-burn tobacco product users, said Phan Thi Hai, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund (VNTCF) under the Ministry of Health.
A 2019 survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that the prevalence of e-cigarette users among Vietnamese teenagers aged 13 – 17 was 2.6%, which is increasing at an alarming rate, she said, adding that in 2015, only 0.2% of Vietnamese people were e-cigarette and heat cigarette smokers.
The tobacco manufacturers have been luring young people by products with compact, eye-catching designs and various flavours, Hai continued, new-generation tobacco products are targeting both non-smokers and smokers; and in fact, many smokers of traditional cigarettes are also using e-cigarettes.
She warned that if Vietnam does not prevent the use of e-cigarette from expanding further, it will soon face dual impacts of both tobacco products, even those containing drugs.
Doan Thu Huyen, Country Director of the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said e-cigarettes and heat cigarettes are having negative effects on young people and smokers. There is a higher risk that young people might use drugs and other stimulants while smoking e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, she added.
Huyen suggested a ban on all kinds of e-cigarettes and heat cigarettes should be issued before they become more popular on the market.
Meanwhile, Le Thi Thu from HealthBridge Canada, urged Vietnam to develop a legal framework to control these two tobacco products. Authorities should make extra efforts to inspect and prevent production, imports, marketing and sales of the products, she said.