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Vietnam Women’s Union and Ministry of Health drive to create smoke-free homes will save lives

(May 30, 2016, Hanoi, Vietnam and New York, USA) – Global public health experts Vital Strategies today congratulated the Ministry of Health of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam Women’s Union on the launch of an important initiative to create smoke-free homes. A Women’s Union campaign will contact every woman in Vietnam – which is among the world’s top 15 countries for smoking prevalence – to teach her about the harms of secondhand smoke to the health of women and children. According to The Tobacco Atlas, more women die from tobacco-related disease in Vietnam (9.5 percent) than smoke cigarettes (1.6 percent), suggesting that women suffer a disproportionate burden of illness and premature death from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Progress is being made. A survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the General Statistics Office of Vietnam and the Hà Nội Medical University in 2015 showed that the rate of exposure to secondhand smoke in the home had dropped to 59.9 per cent from 73.1 per cent in 2010 – but this is still much higher than in other middle income countries. Women will be encouraged to tell loved ones not to smoke and to create smoke-free homes where smokers respect a voluntary smoking ban, as well as supporting smoke-free public places. Vital Strategies will provide technical and financial support for mass and social media communications to support the objectives and messages of the initiative.

Quotes from leadership

Speaking at the launch event, Madame Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Member of The Central Party Committee and Vice- President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam said: “Smokers know the harms of smoking but they still smoke, and non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, although they are aware of the dangers, don’t speak up to ask smokers to comply with the law. Therefore, the best and only way to protect the health of all people from the harms of smoking is to build 100% smoke-free environments as recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Madame Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, Member of the Vietnam Central Party Committee and President of the Vietnam Women’s Union said: “I call on Vietnamese women to raise your voice so that you and your children can live in a smoke-free environment. For the health of each of us, for the future of younger generations, I call on everyone to say NO to cigarettes or quit smoking if you are smoker. Let’s all work together to help women build smoke-free homes.”

Dr. Tom Carroll, Senior Advisor, Policy and Communications, Vital Strategies said: “We applaud the Ministry of Health and Vietnam Women’s Union on their leadership of this important initiative to protect the health of women and children from the harms of secondhand smoke. Its ability to reach every woman in Vietnam gives it real grass-roots power to make a difference in every home in every community. We are proud to support this initiative and look forward to working with the Ministry of Health and the Women’s Union in the months ahead.”

In addition to Madame Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh and Madame Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, today’s launch event in Hanoi was attended by leaders from the Ministry of Health and other Ministries, the Vietnam Farmers’ Union and from the Central and Hanoi departments; media agencies; and nearly 900 women, men and youth.

The burden of tobacco use in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the 15 low- and middle-income countries with the highest smoking rates in the world. According to The Tobacco Atlas, 41.2 percent of men, 1.6 percent of women, 5.9 percent of boys and 1.2 percent of girls in Vietnam are daily smokers.  This means that more than 120,000 children and more than 14,769,000 adults continue to use tobacco each day. An additional 1.3 percent of adults in Vietnam – or 890, 100 people – currently use smokeless tobacco, which also causes disease and death. Most smokers report starting to smoke at a very early age, with 56 percent starting before the age of 20. The high smoking rate has caused huge health and economic losses for Vietnam. The Tobacco Atlas notes that tobacco is responsible for 22 percent of adult male deaths and 9.5 percent of adult female deaths – killing 72,800 people each year – more than the average in other middle-income countries. 

The higher proportion of tobacco-related deaths among Vietnamese women (compared with the proportion of adult female tobacco users) suggests that women in Vietnam suffer a disproportionate burden of death and disease from exposure to SHS. According to The Tobacco Atlas, SHS increases the risks of contracting lung cancer by 30 percent (small cell lung cancer by 300 percent) and coronary heart disease by 25 percent. Exposure to SHS killed more than 600,000 non-smokers globally in 2010 from causes of death including ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, asthma, and lung cancers.

Research conducted in 2001 revealed that diseases and early deaths caused by smoking accounted for 12 percent 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 percent of patients in 1976 to 71.6 percent in 2010. According to the World Health Organization, NCDs are responsible for 73 percent 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 percent to 18 percent), male adults (from 47.4 percent to 39 percent), and female adults (to less than 1.4 percent).

The “Invisible Killer – Office” and “Smokefree Restaurant” PSAs and stills and transcripts from the PSAs are available upon request.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies envisions a world where every person is protected by a strong public health system.  Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change.  Vital Strategies was formed when The Union North America and World Lung Foundation joined forces.  It is an affiliate of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or