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Vietnam will curb alcohol consumption, ban smoking in 2035

Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:11 GMT+7

Editor’s note: In 2035, Vietnam would pride itself on lower consumption of beer and alcohol and a non-smoking society, Nguyen Bich Thuy, a 28-year-old female contestant in the “Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” (“My Expectations for Vietnam in 20 Years”) writing competition, said in her entry.

I wish that Vietnamese people would consume less beer and other alcoholic beverages and say no to smoking altogether in the next 20 years.

I hope that Vietnam in 2035 may be not rich yet, but would take pride in its people refraining from beer and alcohol and drinking them in moderation.

Instead of going for a drink and gossip every evening and stumbling to their bed when they get home, male youths would spend time reading books on literature, business and soul cultivation, and helping their elderly parents out.     Married men would have more time for their children to help them in their studies and share their confidences.    

Streets will see fewer traffic accidents and rule violations or hassles which are all associated with drinking. That would also spare traffic policemen and medical staff much work.

In Vietnam, approximately 40,000 people die of smoking-related diseases every year. To put it more simply, the annual death toll is equivalent to a district’s population. Among the perished are innocent victims of passive smoking, who are mostly children.

I hope that Vietnam would be the first country in the world to be wholly free from cigarette smoke in 2035. Offices, coach stations, food shops, cafés, houses or even streets would no longer be thick with smoke.

Infants would no longer be undersized, have weak immune systems and be prone to pneumonia, and women would not be tormented by relentless coughs, headaches or even hampered fertility functions just because the men around them are smoking.

In 2035, I aspire that the whole world would look up to Vietnam for radically banning smoking in the entire S-shaped country, so that a new generation of citizens would be born healthier and enjoy fresher air.

To realize the above-mentioned expectations, I’d like to suggest the solutions below:    

1. Restraining alcoholic beverages

First of all, there should be tighter regulations on breath alcohol tests imposed on drivers. Not only traffic police but also ward police and militiamen would be eligible to do the fining. Apart from being given fines, localities and offices of those exceeding the alcohol breath concentration would be notified of their rule violations.

Secondly, awareness should be raised among students regarding the insidious harm of beer consumption. Such content should be incorporated in civics right in elementary school so that the youngsters would grow up into restrained, moderate drinkers. The kids could also talk their parents or grandparents out of their habit of drinking to excess.

Thirdly, it’s essential that regulations on the age of alcohol consumers be issued. It’s not uncommon now that stylishly-dressed youngsters aged 16 or 17 leisurely walk into pubs and order expensive beer or brandy. Therefore, the government should promulgate regulations stipulating the age of youths who are allowed to enter such sensitive places and drink beer. Violating shops or pubs would be suspended from operation.

Fourthly, changes should be made to campaigns meant to raise awareness of drunk driving. Drastic publicity should take the place of rigid slogans such as “No Driving When Drunk.” Graphic images depicting a smashed motorbike or shattered safety helmet should be enlarged as much as possible and hung at street sections which are lined with pubs and sidewalk beer shops. The images should also be captioned “Just Get Drunk, You Can Be the Next Victim.”

2. Banning cigarette smoking

Many would object to the proposed ban, producing a feeble excuse that the cigarette industry is earning our country big profits, and the ban could hurt the livelihood of millions of people, or even cost them their jobs. However, it should be noted that if wealth is gained at the cost of health, we would be just like a snake which is unwittingly swallowing its own tail and gobbling its own flesh until its death.

Banning smoking and all other damaging types of cigarettes including pipe tobacco, shisha (Arabian tobacco) and cigars could not be achieved overnight. It would take at least a 10-year course.

First, space where smoking is allowed should be narrowed. Smokers can currently indulge in their habit at places they are not prohibited by law to do so, which means space outside offices, schools and hospitals.

A regulation stipulating that smoking is allowed only where it is not legally prohibited should be introduced in five years’ time. Such space should be narrowed in the five following years until smoking is banned altogether.

Secondly, setting examples among those responsible is also a must. A rule regulating that those receiving salaries taken from the State budget refrain from smoking should also be put in place. One of the requisites for recruiting officers and employees for State agencies is that they are non-smokers. Delegates of the People’s Council and the National Assembly are also supposed to be non-smokers, because as people’s representatives, their persuasive power would be seriously hampered for failing to set examples in terms of smoking.

Thirdly, a heavy tax should be levied on cigarettes. A pack of cigarettes is now dirt cheap. A number of men are willing to leave their babies craving for milk but can still satisfy their smoking indulgence. The poor and rich alike can both smoke. In my opinion, a hefty tax should be imposed so that a cigarette would cost as much as an imported can of milk. Only the “super rich” could afford to satisfy their exorbitant pleasure then. 

Fourthly, a rule on where cigarettes can be sold and who can buy them is also necessary. Cigarettes are currently readily available, with small carts parked on sidewalks everywhere. The government should introduce stringent rules on authorized cigarette shops, with the number of such shops minimized. Only youths aged 20 and above are allowed to buy cigarettes, and must present their identification cards upon purchase.

Fifthly, methods to wean people off smoking should be publicized. Such methods should be aired, though briefly, on national television channels at peak hours. Sweets or mouth cleansing chemicals made to help people quit smoking should be levied with a 0-per cent tax so that everyone can afford them.

“Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” is a competition organized by the World Bank in Vietnam and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that encourages local youths to write down their wildest, yet feasible, dreams about how Vietnam will change in 20 years’ time.

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