Vietnamese spend VND22 trillion (US$1.04 billion) a year on smoking, the Ministry of Health reported at a media meeting on Monday.
It costs Vietnamese smokers VND22 trillion to buy tobacco annually, the health ministry said at the meeting held to celebrate the World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31.
Vietnam will run a No Tobacco Week from May 26 to 31.
At the meeting in Hanoi, many health officials voiced their opinions to discuss higher tobacco taxes to reduce the number of smokers.
The Ministry of Finance has proposed to increase tobacco tax from the current 65 percent to 75 percent in 2015, and 85 percent in 2018, Phan Thi Hai, an official from the health ministry’s Vietnam Steering Committee on Smoking and Health (Vinacosh), said.
“But in the view of Vinacosh, these proposed high taxes would have modest impact on the tobacco consumption as they are still behind the inflation and income per capita growths,” Hai commented.
The Ministry of Health has thus proposed a stronger tax increase plan on tobacco, she added.
The excise tax for tobacco should be increased to 105 percent in 2015, and to 145 percent in 2018, according to the health ministry’s proposal.
The taxes will be adjusted again in 2020.
Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the department of medical treatment under the health ministry, said Vietnam remains among 15 countries that have the highest rate of smokers in the world.
More than 48 percent of Vietnamese young adults are smokers, or 15 million given its 90 million population.
Tobacco prices in Vietnam, meanwhile, are only more expensive than Cambodia in the Southeast Asian region.
Current tobacco tax in Vietnam is 65 percent, while the rates in Brunei and Thailand are 81 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
Smoking causes a huge damage of VND23 trillion ($1.08 billion) a year as in terms of working day losses and hospital fees to cover smoking-related disease treatments, according to the health ministry.
Around 40,000 Vietnamese people died of smoking-caused diseases on a daily basis, according to a World Health Organization report.
The Vietnam Tobacco Association also reported earlier this year that Vietnam consumed a total of 4.174 billion packs of cigarettes in 2012.
The World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31.
It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe.