The Huffington Post labeled smoking in Vietnam an “epidemic.” Nearly 50% of men, and 5% of Vietnamese women regularly consume tobacco. And with 18 million smokers across the country, Vietnam’s rate of tobacco use is staggeringly high. That’s not to mention the estimated 42 million innocent people that are affected by secondhand smoke—an amount exacerbated by a lack of designated smoking areas.
But how does Vietnam’s rate of smoking compare with the global average? How many people are dying from related diseases, and is the “epidemic” getting better or worse? We sat down with our go-to medical experts, Jio Health, to learn more about smoking in Vietnam and if its impact really is as bad as it appears.
How many people are really smoking in Vietnam?
Foreign agencies teamed up with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to conduct a global adult tobacco survey—and the results show the scale of the problem. The study reported that roughly 50% of adult males are smokers, and 85% of them smoke daily. Of Vietnam’s smokers, 75.9% consume at least half a pack a day, and 37.6% go through an entire pack. And by the age of 18, it’s already become a daily habit.
Compared to the rest of the world, the Deputy Minister of Health warned Vietnam that ”it ranked in the top 15 countries for highest rates of tobacco use.” Added to that, a whopping US $1.4 billion dollars a year is spent on the unhealthy habit.
Some attribute the problem of smoking in Vietnam to the low cost and taxation of cigarettes. From 2005 to 2016 the country’s income per capita soared by 4.7 times. During that same period, the price for cigarettes only increased by a small margin. Today, the average price for a pack in Vietnam is between US $1-2, well below the global average of US $4.87.
The World Health Organization provided further evidence for the claim that low prices contribute to Vietnam’s high rates of tobacco use when they shared data about the low rate of tax applied to cigarette sales. Their Vietnam correspondent, Nguyen Tuan Lam, noted that “tax accounts for 35.6% of the retail price, while the global average is 56%.”
The effects of secondhand smoke
Even if you don’t use tobacco, the chances of acquiring negative health effects from smoking in Vietnam are extremely high. The WHO’s Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted an in-depth study on the effects of secondhand smoke in Vietnam, which concluded that 47 million people are affected. This can include conditions as life-threatening as heart disease and even lung cancer. And for pregnant women and infants, secondhand smoke has the potential to harm or even kill children that are overexposed.
The report presented startling information which pinned down the percent of Vietnam’s adult population that are exposed in both public and private locations as follows:
- At home: 53.5% or 28.5 million non-smokers
- Indoor workplaces: 36.8 % or 5.9 million non-smokers
- Public transportation: 18.5% or 1.4 million non-smokers
The devastating health effects of smoking in Vietnam
With an estimated ¼ of the population regularly lighting up, 40,000 people die each year from smoking in Vietnam stated the Ministry of Health—a number that is four times higher than the traffic accident death toll. The World Health Organization has also added to the dialogue warning that by 2030, the amount of smoking-related deaths could easily increase to 70,000.
Scientists warn that even one cigarette can shorten the human lifespan by five minutes.
A look at the awareness around the dangers of smoking in Vietnam
Although smoking in Vietnam is inarguably something to worry about, the country isn’t alone. With over one billion smokers worldwide, the destructive habit continues to unleash havoc upon people’s health across the globe. But as we move forward into the future, awareness about the dangers of smoking is rising, especially in developing countries such as Vietnam.
Another Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted in cooperation with the World Health Organization explored the awareness around the dangers of smoking in Vietnam. The study sampled nearly 10,000 residents over the age of 15 throughout the country. Out of the sampled group, 95.9% believed smoking caused serious illness. And 90.3% were aware that secondhand smoke was dangerous to non-smokers. And, regarding awareness in the media, 65.3% of adults had noticed anti-smoking campaigns on the television or radio.
Taking all the figures into account, tobacco is clearly unleashing a health crisis is Vietnam, but growing awareness and potential government level responses may help check the negative impact of the drug.