The Vietnamese population spends a total of VND31 trillion (US$1.38 billion) a year on cigarettes, according to statistics released by Vietnam’s Ministry of Health.
A further VND23 trillion ($1.03 billion) a year is spent on the cost of treatment for five groups of diseases closely linked to smoking, as well as economic losses due to premature death and loss of labor caused by these diseases, the ministry said.
The statistics were released in a letter issued by Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien calling on provincial and municipal administrations to inform citizens of the increasing dangers of smoking in preparation for National Non-Smoking Week to commence later this month.
Smoking is linked to various diseases, the minister wrote, most commonly lung cancer, upper respiratory tract and gastrointestinal cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
At Vietnam National Cancer Hospital (K Hospital) in Hanoi, 97 percent of lung cancer patients are regular smokers, Minister Tien acknowledged.
Vietnamese laws prohibit smoking in covered public areas, train stations, and airports, though the regulation is often neglected and violators are rarely fined.
The country also strictly forbids the advertising and sale promotion of cigarettes, and requires cigarette companies to print graphic images illustrating the harmful effects of smoking on their packages.