Speech by Dr Ismailov on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2014: Raise tobacco taxes

Dr Gabit Ismailov
On behalf of Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Representative to Viet Nam
30 May 2014 , Ha Noi

Honorable Prof Nguyễn Thiện Nhân, Member of the Political Bureau, Chairman of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front,

Honorable Prof. Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến, Minister of Health,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen!

I am honoured to be here today to congratulate and thank Ministry of Health and the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union for organizing this event today to celebrate World No Tobacco Day 2014 with theme of “Raise tobacco taxes”.

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Tobacco use is the world’s number one preventable killer. We know this statistically, beyond a shadow of a doubt. In a world undergoing economic upheaval, with populations ageing, chronic diseases on the rise, and medical costs soaring, tackling a huge and entirely preventable cause of disease and death becomes all the more imperative.

We know that tobacco directly harms the user’s health in multiple ways. We know that tobacco products kill their consumers.

We know that tobacco smoking, like a drive-by shooting, kills innocent bystanders who are forced to breathe air contaminated with hundreds of toxic chemicals. We know what tobacco exposure during pregnancy does to the fetus, another innocent, blameless, and entirely helpless victim.

We know that tobacco use is not a choice. It is a powerful addiction. The true choice is between tobacco or health.

We have evidence, and we have instruments. As a tool for fighting back, we have the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which Viet Nam has ratified.

For World No Tobacco Day 2014, WHO and partners call on countries to raise taxes on tobacco as essential part of the Framework Convention because this is the most effective measure to reduce tobacco use.

Research and experience show that higher taxes are very effective in reducing tobacco use and importantly preventing young people from starting to smoke.

WHO congratulates the Government for this timely action to increase tobacco tax. However, in order reach the optimal tax rate to reduce deaths and diseases caused by tobacco use, Viet Nam should at least double the tax rate from now until the year 2020.

This will allow Viet Nam to save between 5,000 to 9,000 lives each year and achieve its 2020 target of reducing males smoking rate to 39% set by the National Strategy on Tobacco Control.

Tobacco tax increase is the fastest and the most effective measure to reduce tobacco use and save lives.

I sincerely hope that this event will again tip the balance entirely in favour of increasing tobacco taxes and protecting health of people of Viet Nam.

Thank you

Dr Gabit Ismailov