Cigarettes in Vietnam are too cheap

By Tran Lam   July 23, 2023 | 07:00 pm PT
I once came across an interesting case where a woman in Australia taught her grandchildren about the "real cost of smoking."

After one of her grandchildren was surprised to see a guest had a pack of 40 cigarettes worth US$56.95, Grandma Judy Lawson from Australia seized the opportunity to teach her grandchildren a lesson.

She placed a pack of cigarettes on the left side, and on the right side are a pile of foods including minced meat, bananas, bread, milk, spaghetti sausages... The two sides were equal in monetary value.

The price of cigarettes in Australia is sky-high because they are taxed so high. To buy a pack of cigarettes for 25 Australian dollars ($16.82), you have to pay tax up to 18 Australian dollars.

The price of a pack of cheap cigarettes in Thailand is 89 baht ($2.59). A pack of cigarettes in Vietnam cost VND6,000-20,000 ($0.25-0.85).

At my office in Vietnam, there is a gathering place for smoking. Many of the smokers are young men in their 20s.

In the cafes near my house, whenever there is a group of young people coming, the service staff will automatically bring out the ashtray. Some places also offer pipes for free.

Although the rate of tobacco use among young people aged 15-24 decreased from 26% in 2015 to 13% in 2020, and among 13-15 year olds it decreased from 2.5% in 2014 to 1.9% in 2022, Vietnam is still in the group of countries with the highest number of smokers in the world.

Why is the smoking rate in Vietnam high? In my opinion, the main reason is because cigarettes in Vietnam are too cheap and widely available.

According to calculations in 2019, the price of a pack of cigarettes in Vietnam is among the 15 cheapest in the world, according to WHO.

Not to mention, anyone can buy cigarettes. I once witnessed a boy about eight years old go to the grocery store to buy them for his father.

Back to the Australian grandma example, Vietnam also has similar lessons about saving money for a bigger purpose. But when the price of cigarettes is too low, no one will hold back.

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