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May 26th, 2009:

Around 40,000 Vietnamese Die Of Cigarettes A Year

VietNamNet Bridge – 26 May 2009

As one of the countries with the most male smokers, the number of cigarette-related deaths in Vietnam is four-fold the number of casualties from traffic accidents.

The Health Ministry’s Health Treatment and Examination Agency chief Ly Ngoc Kinh talked about the situation.

Government Decree 45 issued in 2005 stipulates a 50,000-100,000 dong fine for smoking in public sites. But it seems that this regulation is ineffective. What do you think about it?

It is impossible to implement this rule. We don’t lack regulations or sanctions on smoking, issued by the government and the Health Ministry, but they cannot be implemented effectively.

Not only in this field, in other areas people don’t obey the rules. For example, may people cross the road on a red light or they don’t wear helmets.

Why don’t people obey the ban on smoking at public sites?

Cigarettes are allowed to circulate in the market. It is very difficult to issue measures against cigarette smoking because we can’t ban them like drugs, only educate people to help them understand the danger and change their behaviour.

Moreover, profit from cigarettes is huge, only behind oil and alcohol, so producers seek every way to attract smokers.

How can other countries ban smoking at public sites?

Our sanctions are not strong enough. In Hong Kong, the fine for smoking at public sites is HK$5,000, equivalent to 11 million dong. They have smoking supervision teams at public sites.

In Vietnam, this job is assigned to police officers or guards but they don’t do it because the fine is very small, 50,000-100,000. If we impose higher fines and pay them commissions, the ban will be effective.

Moreover, many people are not familiar with living under and following the law.

Vietnam forced cigarette producers to print warnings on cigarette packs. How will this help change people’s awareness?

Most people have only vague understanding about the harms of cigarettes to health and they lack knowledge about diseases caused by cigarettes.

The warning accounts for around 30 percent of the area of a cigarette pack, and it is not strong enough: “Smoking can cause cancer”.

The warning would be better if it was expressed in an image.

It has been suggested that the warning contain an image but it has not been done yet. Why?

This issue has been discussed at many seminars. Many people think that this task is simple and useful but because of different reasons, especially strong reactions from cigarette producers, the implementation has been delayed.

Cigarette producers say that it is costly or they don’t have suitable technology to print warnings with images. But exported cigarette products have warnings with images. We will try to enforce this in 2010.