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Higher tax will reduce Vietnam tobacco deaths: WHO

Vietnamese smoking

First published: March 12, 2010

Source: Viet News Online

A 20 percent increase in tobacco tax may cause 100,000 fewer tobacco-related deaths in Vietnam in the next 40 years, the World Heath Organization (WHO) revealed at a conference in Hanoi Tuesday.

Taxes should make up 66-80 percent of retail price to effectively reduce the smoking rate, the UN agency said.

If Vietnam raises the taxes to 65 percent from the current 45 percent, tobacco retail prices will rise by 10 percent, not only pricing it beyond the reach of many people but also bringing up to VND2 trillion (US$105 million) in revenues to the government.

An estimated 100,000 people could be saved in the next four decades in a country where more than 40,000 die each year from smoking-related diseases.

In a 2009 report WHO said Vietnam had one of the highest smoking rates in the world, with 56.1 percent of men and 1.8 percent of women being active smokers.

It blamed the high smoking rate on the cheap prices in Vietnam, where tobacco taxes are much lower than in other countries like Singapore and Thailand.

A Vietnamese-made pack of 20 cigarettes costs a mere VND3,500 (18 cents).

There are 17 tobacco producers in Vietnam who produced 2.7 billion packs in 2000 and 4 billion in 2007.

A government ban on smoking in indoor public areas from this year has not proved very effective yet.

Violators will be fined up to VND100,000 but it is not clear which agency will enforce the ban.

The indoor places include classrooms, kindergartens, healthcare facilities, libraries, theaters, cinemas, public vehicles, and workplaces.

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