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May 27, 2024 / 12:55

Vietnam needs to drastically ban electronic and heat-not-burn cigarettes: WHO official

WHO calls on communities to protect children from the harmful effects of conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and heat-not-burn tobacco products.

Banning electronic and heat-not-burn cigarettes and increasing tobacco taxes will help Vietnam meet the targets set out in its national health plan and international commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Angela Pratt, Chief Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Vietnam, told a meeting in Hanoi last weekend to mark World No Tobacco Day [31 May] and National No Tobacco Week [25-31 May].

Dr. Angela Pratt, WHO Representative in Vietnam speaks at the ceremony. Photos: MoH

The WHO official emphasized the need to protect young generations from the harmful effects of all types of cigarettes, especially electronic and heated cigarettes. She also stressed the importance of protecting children from the influence of the tobacco industry.

Angela Pratt pledged to work closely alongside Vietnam's Ministry of Health (MoH) and other organizations to ensure that every child in the country can live a long, healthy, and happy life.

To that end, the WHO official called on the community to protect children from the harmful effects of conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and heat-not-burn tobacco products, and from the tobacco industry's advertising tactics to entice and addict people to use these products.

Dr. Angela Pratt also noted that tobacco sold in Vietnam is currently among the cheapest in the world and that smoking kills at least 40,000 people in Vietnam each year.

"The low taxes and prices have made it easier for young people to access and use tobacco while making it harder for smokers to quit. Much remains to be done to reduce premature deaths from tobacco use and achieve the target of a 30% reduction in smoking prevalence in Vietnam by 2030," she stressed.

Addressing the meeting, Minister of Health Dao Hong Lan called on localities and cities across the country to further strengthen the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Law and organize practical activities in response to World No Tobacco Day.

 "In Vietnam, tobacco is a burden on society, costing a total of VND108 trillion (US$4.24 billion) a year in medical examination, treatment, disease and premature death," Lan said.

Minister of Health Dao Hong Lan delivers a speech at the meeting.

She emphasized the importance of drastically reducing the number of smokers in the country as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease and creating a healthy environment for each individual and society as a whole.

The official cited a report summarizing the 10-year implementation of the Tobacco Harm Prevention and Control Law, which shows that the rate of regular cigarette use among adult males fell by an annual average of 0.5% from 47.4% in 2010 to 38.9% in 2023.

The smoking rate among adolescents has decreased from 5.36% in 2013 to 2.78% in 2019 in the 13-17 age group, and exposure to secondhand smoke in public places, workplaces, and homes has also declined significantly.

"However, these achievements risk being undermined by the rapid increase in the rate of new tobacco use, mainly electronic and heated tobacco. Notably, in the age group of 13-15, the rate doubled from 3.5% in 2022 to 8% in 2023,” the minister warned.

She added that many communication campaigns have been launched nationwide to raise public awareness of the harmful effects of using new tobacco products and to create smoke-free environments.

Specifically, on May 13, the Prime Minister issued an official telegram instructing relevant ministries and agencies to strengthen measures to immediately prevent e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products nationwide.

She said that on May 24, the Prime Minister approved the National Strategy for Tobacco Control until 2030, considering the reduction of the rate of tobacco use in the community as an important goal.

Minister of Health Dao Hong Lan, WHO Senior Representative Pratt, and other delegates join a bicycle ride through the main streets of Hanoi in response to World No Tobacco Day 2024.

This year's World No Tobacco Week in Vietnam, themed "Protecting children from tobacco industry interference," emphasizes the need for the tobacco industry to stop targeting children and adolescents with its harmful products, and focuses on raising public awareness of the dangers and prevention activities to limit the harmful effects of tobacco.

The MoH has recently coordinated efforts with relevant agencies to implement a series of activities against the harmful effects of tobacco use in 63 cities and provinces nationwide, with special emphasis on banning smoking in the workplace and developing smoke-free work environments.

According to the WHO, there is a clear correlation between increasing rates of tobacco product use among youth and reaching youth through tobacco advertising, promotion, and marketing, especially through social networks and digital platforms.

The organization warned that 1 billion people worldwide could die from tobacco-related causes this century unless "urgent action" is taken.

Many communication activities will be organized to raise awareness among youth and their parents about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco and to urge people to stop using all types of tobacco products to protect the health of themselves, their families, and the community.