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Speech at ceremony to mark World No Tobacco Day by Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in Viet Nam

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Date: Saturday, May 24, 2008
Event: Ceremony to mark World No Tobacco Day,
Ministry of Health, Hanoi, Viet Nam
Speaker: Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, WHO Representative in Viet Nam

Vice Minister Nguyen Thi Xuyen,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

I would like to share with you some statistics.

They may just be numbers… but they tell a damning and tragic tale.

Smoking is the SINGLE BIGGEST preventable cause of death.

It claims 5.4 million lives each year.

Last century tobacco killed 100 million people worldwide.

This century 1 BILLION people will die from tobacco related diseases.

More than half of those deaths will be in Asia. 

Why?  Because Asia has the most smokers, the highest rate of smoking and the fastest increase of smoking uptake among youth and women.

The figures are astounding.  But what do they mean?

In starkest terms, these figures mean millions of cases of lung cancer, throat cancer, heart disease – and a myriad of other fatal disease directly caused by smoking.

Viet Nam’s smokers are not protected.

In this country 40, 0000 people each year die from smoking

That’s three time more than all those killed in traffic accidents.

This country has as one of THE highest smoking rates in the world – only slightly behind that of China.

More than half the men in this country smoke!

Most start the habit young.  10 percent of Vietnamese school boys – aged just 13 to 15 – smoke.  

But by the time boys reach 15-24 years of age, one in three of them is smoking.

The figures tell us that huge numbers of Vietnam’s males take up smoking in their teenage years.

That is why the theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is "TOBACCO-FREE YOUTH"

The tobacco industry is catching Vietnam’s young!

To survive, the tobacco industry must hook new customers to this terrible addiction, so it can replace those who die or quit. 

The younger children are when they first try smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are to quit.

The developing world’s youth is particularly at risk.

This group is aggressively targeted by the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year on advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

They spread the marketing net as widely as possible to attract young customers, targeting them at the movies, on the Internet, in fashion magazines at concerts and sports events.

The theory is simple. The more exposed to tobacco advertising you are, the more likely you are to smoke. 

The tobacco industry deceptively associates use of its products with glamour, energy and sex appeal, as well as with exciting activities and an adventurous lifestyle.

They are trying to “normalize” tobacco use, portraying it as being no different from any other consumer product. This makes it difficult for young people to understand the hazards of its use.

Young people underestimate the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and the tragic health consequences that easily follow.

So how can we protect Vietnam’s youth from tobacco?

Vietnam has made significant steps in banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Compliance has been good regarding TV, newspapers and billboard advertising.

But the tobacco industry uses a number of tactics to target our young, and partial bans simply allow companies to shift their vast resources from one promotional tactic to another.

When I walk past small convenience shops in Hanoi, I can see many sales counters and shelves painted with colours and logos advertising different cigarette brands.

This kind of advertising at the Point of Sale is clearly violating the advertising ban in Vietnam.

This is an alarming situation. Only a total ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and strict enforcement can break the tobacco marketing net.

We hope that World No Tobacco Day celebrations this year will mark the beginning of effective and committed action to stop tobacco companies from violating the law.

This action, along with raising tobacco tax, banning the sale of individual cigarettes and restricting the sale of tobacco to licensed retailers only, will limit the access young people have to cigarette. 

On this World No Tobacco Day – I challenge all young people to say no to smoking.  I appeal to you all to protect our youth from tobacco's harm and break the tobacco marketing net.
We sincerely hope that in the near future, Vietnamese people can live in a healthy     environment without smoking.

Finally, let me express my sincere thank to MOH, and other organizations for arranging these activities to celebrate World No Tobacco Day.

Thank you