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US charity hails Vietnam for trying to stub out tobacco use

By Vi Vu   March 8, 2018 | 02:04 am PT
US charity hails Vietnam for trying to stub out tobacco use
A man smokes from a bamboo pipe as another holds a cigarette on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 11, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham
An estimated 15.6 milllion people smoke in Vietnam, but that number is falling thanks to health awareness efforts.

Vietnam’s health ministry received global recognition on Wednesday for its efforts to end the use of tobacco, which is killing millions of people worldwide every year.

The ministry was among six winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards for Global Tobacco Control announced in Cape Town, South Africa.

It was praised for its “excellent” work in tobacco surveillance and monitoring, while El Salvador, Mexico, Senegal, Uganda and Argentina were honored for regulations and policies put in place to protect their communities from tobacco.

“Their outstanding work is saving lives every day,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and founder of the organization, as cited by PR Newswire.

The honorees will continue to help lead the fight ahead, said Bloomberg, the WHO’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

Watch Vietnam's fight against tobacco in this video shared by Bloomberg Philanthropies:

The Bloomberg awards were first hosted in 2009 to boost tobacco control in low and middle-income countries, home to 80 percent of the world’s more than one billion smokers.

Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, more than deaths related to alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined, according to the WHO.

Vietnam has one of the world’s highest populations of smokers. 15.6 million Vietnamese smokers spend VND31 trillion ($1.36 billion) buying cigarettes every year, which helps drive the illegal trade of contraband tobacco.

Smoking is a major cause of lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases that cost the country VND23 trillion (more than $1 billion) in treatment and labor loss every year, according to the health ministry.

But efforts to contain the habit, including graphic warnings printed on cigarette packets and restrictions against public smoking, have started to work.

The ministry said last year that the smoking rate among male adults fell from 47.4 percent to 45.3 percent, and among women from 1.4 percent to 1.1 percent.

Passive smoking in the workplace also fell from 56 percent to 42.6 percent, and at home from 73 percent to 60 percent, it said.

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