|Plans have been proposed to increase tax on tobacco, ban electronic vapes and tighten online advertising of cigarettes
The Ministry of Health said it wants to prevent people, particularly youngsters from taking up the habit.
The proposals were raised at a meeting to review the Law on Tobacco Harms Prevention and Control held by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Hanoi on November 14.
Nguyen Quang Huy, Director of the MoH’s Legal Department, said the price of cigarettes in Vietnam was far lower than other countries in the region.
He also said there are serious issues with cross-border smuggling of foreign cigarettes that need to be addressed.
Tran Thi Trang, Deputy Director of the MoH’s Legal Department, said banning smoking in certain public areas has not been effectively enforced.
She also said more needs to be done to educate young people about the harm smoking causes.
Four years ago, a study carried out by the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), revealed 1.1 percent of adults used electronic cigarettes – with many thinking they were harmless.
Phan Thi Hai, Vice Director of the Tobacco Harms Prevention and Control Fund, said she believed that figure today is much higher.
And in recent months, studies in Europe have revealed vapes, or e-cigarettes may cause serious brain damage.
A survey on e-cigarette consumption is being carried out with results expected next year, but Hai urged the country to ban the use of electronic cigarettes altogether.
Hai said: “Many tobacco companies persuaded governments that using e-cigarettes was a good method to quit the traditional cigarettes.”
But, she added, World Health Organisation (WHO) and health experts have concluded there is no proof they help people kick the habit.
Dr. Pham Thi Le Quyen from Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi said: “Many ingredients in e-cigarettes contain carcinogens such as benzene like traditional tobacco.
“E-cigarettes are not less harmful than traditional ones. They also pose numerous potential risks that we had not yet evaluated.”
Vietnam is one of 15 countries with the most smokers worldwide. The country rank third in the Association of South-East Asian Nations, following Indonesia and the Philippines, said Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son.
According to a global survey on smoking, one in two Vietnamese adults smoke.
In addition, about 53.3 percent and 36.8 percent of non-smokers were exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes and offices.
Every year, about 40,000 people die from smoking in Vietnam, said Son.
Five years after the Law on Tobacco Harms Prevention and Control was implemented, progress has been made.
The number of male smokers has dropped by 2.1 percent in 2015 as compared to 2010.
More than 1,500 public offices, 3,700 kindergartens and 7,000 schools nation-wide have enforced smoking ban on campus and indoor areas.
During five years, there were 195,000 public servants who quit smoking, according to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour.
Cigarette detoxification programmes have been implemented in 24 hospitals in the country, helping more than 800 people quit each year, said Trang.