Current estimates show that slightly more than one million people, or 29.4 percent of the Lao population aged 15 or older, are tobacco users, indicating a decline on previous years.
This was one of the key findings of the National Adult Tobacco Survey, which took place in March 2012.
The survey found that 876,000 people smoked tobacco products, while another 156,000 used smokeless tobacco in the form of betel nut, smoked tobacco, betel leaf, areca nut and slaked lime.
Tobacco use is more common among men (43.6 percent) than women (15 percent). The survey results were revealed yesterday at the National Workshop on Tobacco Control and the Dissemination of the National Adult Tobacco Survey results in Laos.
Office Head of the Ministry of Health, Dr Nao Boutta, said tobacco control is meaningful and important for non-communicable disease prevention and health promotion, which the government considers a priority along with communicable disease control.
Tobacco control efforts have been in place for more than 15 years, and are recognised on World No Tobacco Day on May 31 each year. The 2012 survey was based on a model international survey that is commonly used around the world.
In the past, about 40 percent of the Lao population smoked. Today, the results of the survey show that 29.4 percent are smokers. The decrease in the smoking rate indicates that more Lao people understand the dangers of tobacco.
“We are proud to see the decrease in the smoking rate, which we attribute to an effective tobacco control programme, the treaty on tobacco control and the Law on Tobacco Control in Laos,” Dr Nao said.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Laos, Dr Liu Yunguo, said there is still more to learn from the tobacco survey data. The survey was the first of its kind, tailored to produce tobacco-related data specific to Laos.
“The results of this survey will be an important source of information for the government to use when developing an evidence-based national action plan. It will also be used to initiate country specific interventions for tobacco control,” he said.
Other countries in the region have undertaken the same process and have used the results from the survey to develop a national action plan and useful interventions to address tobacco-related issues.
The WHO estimates that tobacco kills about six million people each year and causes more than half a trillion dollars of economic damage globally. Tobacco will kill as many as one billion people this century if the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is not implemented immediately.
Director General of the Hygiene and Health Promotion Department of the Ministry of Health, Dr Phath Keungsaneth, co-chaired the workshop.
Source: Vientiane Times