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A Landmark Day in Vietnam

Monday, June 18, 2012

Today marks a turning point for public health in Vietnam—the country's National Assembly (NA) passed Vietnam's first national tobacco control legislation!

Details will unfold in coming days, but since the beginning of this process—a full eight years ago—tobacco control advocates in Vietnam have pushed for the legislation to follow international guidelines as defined by the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC). The last draft of the legislation that was circulated included graphic health warnings that cover at least 50% of cigarette packs, to be rotated every two years; higher taxes on tobacco products; elimination of "kiddie packs" within three years (no cigarette packs to include fewer than 20 sticks); and smoke-free public places. One of the downsides is that the smoke-free provision permitted designated smoking areas for hospitality venues, but we heard that restaurants were removed from this exemptions list at the last minute—another small victory that led up to today's law passage.

The show of commitment by government officials was impressive and spoke to the tireless work of advocates throughout the years. The NA passed the legislation with 88% of the vote, and the NA president, Mr. Nguyen Sinh Hung, even declared he would quit smoking after the law passed.

WLF and other stakeholders (including the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, WHO and Youth Union) have been working together to pass this law since 2009, through mass media campaigns and related work with the media. We've aired the "Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive" campaign, originally made in New York City and tested/ adapted for Vietnam, three times on the national level—in 2009, 2011 and 2012. This year's campaign supported a social media advocacy effort, sponsored by Vietnam's largest political organization, the Youth Union. We sent 200,000 text messages and set up a website, urging youth to text back or sign up through the website in support of the law and a smoke-free country. We promoted the website every possible way—through SMS, the TV campaign, emails through partners' youth networks, Youth Union meetings and events, the press, and on Facebook. And by the NA vote on June 18, we had nearly 6,000 votes from youth across the country.

A lot of work lies ahead, including ensuring that each provision of the legislation is carefully implemented and thoroughly enforced, so that the policy actually translates into a reduction in smoking and smoking-related diseases. Nevertheless, the very passage of this law is a major victory—one that stands to prevent disease and death for thousands of Vietnamese in the years to come.

Mego Lien
Communications and Editorial Manager
World Lung Foundation

World Lung Foundation
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