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October 31, 2014

New Campaign Urges Policymakers to Introduce High Tobacco Taxes to Protect Vietnamese Youth

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(Hanoi, Vietnam) – Today, the Vietnam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health (VINACOSH), with support from World Lung Foundation (WLF), launched a new national mass media campaign to call for high tobacco taxes that would help to deter Vietnamese youth from starting to smoke. The campaign ad, which will run on television and online, encourages National Assembly policymakers to increase the cost of cigarettes by significantly raising tobacco taxes in the next legislative period. Increasing tobacco taxation is the single most effective policy measure to help deter youth from initiating smoking and to encourage current smokers to cut down or quit, ultimately reducing disease and deaths caused by tobacco use.

The campaign will appear on television on VTV1 for four weeks through November 2014. It was developed by VINACOSH, with technical and financial support from WLF and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The campaign ad features new graphic health warning images on cigarette packs in Vietnam to graphically illustrate the serious health effects of tobacco use. A voiceover explains the importance of raising the price of cigarettes and calls for policymakers to pass a significant tax increase to discourage youth from purchasing tobacco products, to prevent them from experiencing these tobacco-related diseases in the future.

Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, Director of the National Tobacco Control Fund, said: “Up to 21.6% of male youths aged 16 to 24 smoke in Vietnam. Another worrying issue is that most of them start smoking very early, and the earlier they begin to smoke, the greater their risk of disease and early death. A large tobacco tax increase is a very effective measure to prevent these youth from starting to smoke, and to protect Vietnam’s young generations from diseases caused by smoking.”

Peter Baldini, Chief Executive, World Lung Foundation, said: “During its biannual meeting this month, Vietnam’s National Assembly has an important opportunity to make a decision that could help to save thousands of lives. WLF strongly urges the Vietnamese government to pass a tobacco tax increase over the next five years that will surpass the rate of inflation and economic growth, making cigarettes more costly over time. We applaud our partners, VINACOSH, for their help in initiating and running this campaign. We also acknowledge the significant efforts in tobacco control made by the Government of Vietnam to date, and urge them to build upon these good foundations by introducing higher taxes that we know will deter many more people from smoking.”

About Tobacco Use in Vietnam

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than six million deaths each year—one in ten preventable deaths worldwide. Research has shown that mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to encourage people to stop smoking. It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which WLF is a principal partner.

Vietnam is one of the 15 low- and middle-income countries with the highest smoking rates in the world; on average one out of every two Vietnamese males, aged over 15 years old, is a smoker. Most smokers report starting to smoke very early, with 56% starting before the age of 20. The high smoking rate has caused huge health and economic losses for Vietnam. Research conducted in 2001 revealed that diseases and early deaths caused by smoking accounted for 12% of total diseases in Vietnam. The burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), of which smoking is the main cause, is increasing rapidly, from 42.6% of patients in 1976 to 71.6% in 2010. According to the World Health Organization, NCDs are responsible for 73% of total deaths caused by disease and injuries in Vietnam.

Vietnam has shown a strong commitment to tobacco control, through the ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2004 and passage of comprehensive national tobacco control legislation in 2012. On January 25, 2013, the Vietnamese government approved the National Strategy on Tobacco Control to 2020, which calls for reductions in smoking among teens (from 26% to 18%), male adults (from 47.4% to 39%), and female adults (to less than 1.4%). Increasing taxes on tobacco products is one of the most important measures to help achieve that goal. FCTC Article 6 clearly states: “Tax policies and price policies on tobacco products is an important and effective tool to reduce tobacco consumption.” Experience from other countries also shows that tax increases are responsible for up to 60% of reductions in tobacco consumption.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Screenshots and video copies of the ad are available upon request.

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