Past 2006 + 2010

When I first went to Hanoi in 2006 what struck me was that people smoke everywhere !!

At half time at the footy match this man enjoys a cigarette.
At half time at the footy match this Vietnamese man enjoys a cigarette.

At most coffee shops, in the bus, on the street, in the bank they’re all lighting up without a care in the world.   It was and still commonly practiced and is still considered a normal and acceptable behavior in society.

Steps are in place to improve this but it takes time to change the mindset of the people who consider smoking a part of daily life.

The government has a new smoking ban on public buildings (schools, kindergartens, cinemas, office buildings and on public transport), that came in on the 1st January 2010.  It is still early days as much more awareness is needed to inform the masses that the law even exists and the extra man power needed to enforce it is another issue.

Things are slowly changing, but even in the work place people at their desk are still lighting up.  It seems so shocking and it is so easy to sit back and say ‘that’s disgusting’, but it wasn’t that long ago that other countries imposed their own smoke bans.

I am not a supporter of smoking at all, but want to put a different slant on it before we jump up and down about it.  I still remember flights with a smoking section, which seems ludicrous now, but then the non-smokers just accepted it as normal, which is the same thing that is happening in Vietnam today; they are still developing, being one of the poorest countries in the world who are in catch-up mode.


Vietnamese man enjoys a social cuppa and a smoke with friends in Hanoi
Vietnamese man enjoys a social cuppa and a smoke with friends in Hanoi

2002 -2012 WHO

Despite educational programs about the hazards of smoking the numbers keep rising.  According to the Vietnam Department of Health currently the rate of male smokers is 49.2%.  Vietnam has one of the world’s highest male smoking rates in the world according to WHO (World Health Organization).

2002 calculated 51% of Vietnamese men smoked and women 2%

2012 the numbers had dropped to 48% of Vietnamese men and 1% for Vietnamese women


With only 1% of women are smokers.  However, a more disposable income and other influences are resulting in more women experimenting with smoking as has increasingly become fashionable among young women in cities who see smoking as a sign of personal independence and stylishness.

Vinataba Vietnamese cigarettes
One of the most popular local brands of cigarettes, sold everywhere by the pack or singularly.

WHO (World Health Organization) and the World bank are pushing for a higher tax on cigarettes to try and curb the habit, raising it from the 66 to 80 % on one packet of cigarettes, with this increase it is thought that 30 % of smokers would quit.  Already 40,000 people in Vietnam die annually from diseases related to smoking, which equates to about 100 Vietnamese a day are being lost from smoking habits.


2016 news Ministry of Health 2010 – 2015

Good news is on 16 September 2016 the Ministry of Health released the results of a Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) stating that during the period of 2010-2015 male smokers went down from 47.4 % to 45.3 %.

Despite this decrease in male smokers in Vietnam the Ministry of Health also stated that they are still among countries with highest percentage of tobacco use in the world.

At the same time, tobacco is sold everywhere in Vietnam and local citizens find it easy to access to tobacco.

In the coming time, in order to reduce smoking rate and further implement Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Harms which took effect in 2007, Vietnam will speed up efforts to prohibit smoking in public areas and proposes the country’s government and parliament to increase tobacco tax, reported the state-run news agency VNA.

Warning images of rotting teeth etc is yet to hit the shores as the tobacco companies are postponing this.  The government hopes this will deter teenagers from starting the habit.

In 2016 indoor smoking bans need to be enforced as this is still a problem; and more awareness campaigns need to be launched.


A pack of cigarettes starts at around D20,000 (less than $1), this is actually a lot of money for some people when considering their income.  One doesn’t not need to buy a whole pack, as they are also sold singularly plus water pipes are common and a cheaper option than tailor made cigarettes.

Low income earners and rural men are more likely to smoke a bamboo water pipe, filled with strong tobacco.  On the streets you will see this as it is a common practice at any small tea shop everywhere.