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Tobacco Causing Increasing Health Damage in Laos

Source: Vientiane Times

Deaths, where tobacco is considered to be the main contributor, are estimated at 4,807 per year on average, or 13 people a day in Laos, while every year tobacco kills at least 8 million people around the world, according to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Laos has the second worst record of all ASEAN countries with regard to smoking-related deaths, even though health officials have worked to raise public awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco.

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Worldwide, millions live with lung cancer, tuberculosis, asthma, or chronic lung diseases caused by tobacco.

The widespread use of tobacco means that a very large number of people are exposed to serious health risks, with effective tobacco control being the only way to reduce these risks and better protect our health, the Lao Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states.

Deputy Minister of Health Dr Snong Thongsna spoke about some of the problems relating to tobacco at a public seminar on tobacco control held in Vientiane on May 19, saying “Tobacco control is a task that is quite challenging but it is a task that many sectors must implement and jointly take responsibility for to reduce smoking and the incidence of non-communicable diseases in order to achieve the goal of sustainable development. Healthy lungs are essential for living a healthy, productive, and active life.”

However, tobacco companies employ tactics to persuade young people to take up smoking, with the latest being the use of technology to create a new type of tobacco product, Dr. Snong said.

Referring to e-cigarettes, he said these have become popular among the younger generation and their use is spreading in Laos as well as in the region and internationally.

Another obstacle to reducing tobacco use is the fact that the price of cigarettes in Laos and the tax paid on cigarettes is very low compared to that in other ASEAN countries.

The International Convention on Tobacco Control recommends that the price of cigarettes be increased to protect new smokers and low-income smokers by raising the tax on cigarettes as high as possible, so as to reduce tobacco consumption and discourage people from taking up the habit.

The government must notify tobacco companies about the terms and conditions in relation to renewing or not renewing a contract 24 months before the contract is due to expire. At present, the state must decide on any changes to be made and notify cigarette manufacturers before December 31, 2024.

Unless a change is made, a contract will be automatically renewed for another 25 years.

This system makes it easy for tobacco companies to continue producing cigarettes in large numbers, continuing to cause health and economic damage.