Smoking kills 40,000 people in Vietnam every year but proper education and awareness campaigns can pull this back, a senior health official told a conference in Hanoi Wednesday.
Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Examination and Treatment Administration under the Health Ministry, said Vietnam has one of the largest percentage of smoking populations in the world with 56 percent of the men having the habit, among the total of 17 million smokers.
More people are picking up the habit and they are starting at an earlier age, Khue said at the conference held to review propaganda efforts against smoking.
But many people still don't know that smoking directly or inhaling smoke from others' cigarettes can both cause lung cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, he said.
He said tobacco is the consumer goods that carries the highest death risk, but this can be prevented.
Khue said a communication campaign to support the ban on smoking places at public places has proved effective.
In a February survey of more than 2,000 smokers and non-smokers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta and Thai Binh Province in the north, 75 percent of smokers said they were more likely to quit smoking after watching the campaign's visual messages.
Also, nearly 80 percent of people in the survey were opposed to inhaling smoke from others' cigarettes at public places. The ratio was 14 percent higher than when the people had not seen the campaign images.
Smoking is also a major financial burden, Khue said.
"The money one person spends on smoking is equal to one third of his/her spending on food, 1.5 times the expenditure on medical facilities and nearly the same as on education," Khue informed the conference.