The people of Vietnam have just under a year to use all up of their hidden smokes. As of next May, smoking in public — as well as all tobacco advertising — has been banned by the nation’s Communist government. The law passed almost unanimously in the national assembly with 440 of 468 Vietnamese deputies voting Monday in favor. The new law will also make the sale of tobacco products illegal to those under 18 – something that had not been stipulated in Vietnam’s laws before.
This is not the first time the government has tried to curb smoking; a similar law was passed in 2010, making it illegal to smoke in public places including schools and subways. That law, which also raised tobacco taxes, went more or less ignored by average Vietnamese — almost 50$ of adult males smoke, according to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) — and most went right on puffing, while cigarettes were still sold openly throughout the country.
According to the SEATCA, 15.3 million smokers call Vietnam home, and 40,000 people die each year from tobacco-related diseases, with that number will most likely rise. Bungon Ritthiphakdee, the director of SEATCA, said that the group was very happy with the new law, which they called an important milestone for Vietnam.
Vietnam is following in the footsteps of several other countries that have at least partially banned smoking in public including the United States, France, Canada and Buhtan — which was the first country to ban the sale of tobacco entirely.