The inspections, which began on November 14, will last through December at more than 100 restaurants and hotels in nine districts of the capital, said Doan Thi Thu Hien from the ministry’s Fund for Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control at a workshop held on November 16.
Last year, health inspectors checked 100 restaurants and hotels in Hanoi and fined violators a total of VND91 million (US$4,000), she said.
Under current regulations, those violating regulations on non-smoking areas will be fined between VND100,000 and VND10 million (US$4.5-450), depending on the severity of the infringement.
“Regular inspections will be carried out every quarter by district authorities while the health ministry will conduct unexpected inspections twice a year,” she said.
“The inspections are expected to raise awareness of both restaurant owners and customers of the harmful effects of smoking. In 2015, only 25.1% of 195 surveyed restaurants adopted smoke-free regulations and the figure nearly doubled to 44.1% this year,” she said.
Under the Law on Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control, effective from 2013, restaurants are listed as indoor public areas where smoking is banned.
However, according to the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey in Vietnam, restaurants are among public places affected most by tobacco smoke, said Director of Healthbridge Canada in Vietnam Pham Thi Hoang Anh.
She stressed that many restaurants and hotels across the world had a smoke-free environment and the move would not reduce restaurants’ income as many restaurant owners expected but would help attract more customers.
According to the Centre on Health Education’s report released last year, 358 out of 400 hotels and restaurants rated from one to five stars signed a commitment on non-smoking. The commitment was in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Convention on Tobacco Control.
An estimated 100 deaths occur every day in Vietnam because of smoking-related diseases, according to the WHO.