Higher taxes on cigarette, WHO urges

Raising cigarette taxes could be the most effective way of reducing the high smoking rate in Vietnam, according to participants at a seminar on smoking prevention held in Binh Duong province last week.

A recent survey conducted by Nguyen Tuan Lam, a World Health Organization (WHO) official, and other experts, found that higher incomes and low cigarette taxes had helped keep the smoking rate high, despite education about the hazards of smoking.

Every year, 40,000 people in Vietnam die from diseases related to smoking, and the medical expenses related to lung and heart diseases caused by smoking is estimated at VND1.1 trillion (US$61 million ) each year, according to the WHO.

Half of the men in the country smoke, with 65 percent of them between 25 and 45 years old. The WHO said if prevention measures were not taken soon, annual fatalities due to smoking would rise to 70,000 by 2030.

Lam said if the Government imposed a tax of VND1,750 for each cigarette package, about 30 percent of smokers would quit. He said tax revenues would be deposited in the Government’s health insurance fund and added that the WHO and the World Bank had proposed raising the tax rate from 66 to 80 percent for one package of cigarettes.