Vietnam will ban the sales, purchase, manufacture and importation of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, according to a story published last week in the state newspaper of Dong Nai Province. The country’s Ministry of Health claims “studies have proven that electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco are as harmful as traditional cigarettes,” according to the article.
According to a more recent story in Tuoi Tre News, the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund (VNTCF) will develop the vaping regulations. The VNTCF is the government tobacco control agency, created by Vietnam’s 2013 tobacco legislation and managed by the health ministry. Like the American FDA Center for Tobacco Products, the VNTCF is primarily funded by compulsory contributions from tobacco companies.
The government has been planning a ban on vaping products for more than a year. The Ministry of Health proposed a ban during a November 2019 meeting to review the country’s tobacco control law. At that event, a government health official said that e-cigarettes “may cause serious brain damage,” and a doctor claimed that vaping is no less harmful than smoking. At a more recent meeting in March 2020, a health ministry legal department official said Vietnam will “impose a ban on the sale, production and import of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products.”
Because they’re classified as tobacco products, public use and advertising of e-cigarettes are already prohibited in Vietnam. But the country currently has no specific laws addressing vaping product sales, except a restriction on imports by any company other than the state-owned Vietnam Tobacco Corporation. Market analyst Statista estimates the Vietnamese vaping market to be just over $19 million (US) in 2020. That figure represents nearly 400 percent growth since 2012.
Many of Vietnam’s neighboring Southeast Asian countries have some kind of vape ban—including Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand. Tobacco control groups are powerful in the area, and health authorities are heavily influenced by the anti-vaping extremism of the World Health Organization and its Bloomberg-controlled Framework Convention for Tobacco Control. Tobacco regulators in Vietnam have a direct relationship with Bloomberg Philanthropies, and have sought training for local health officials from Bloomberg-funded Johns Hopkins University.
According to the most recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey in Vietnam (2015), 18.2 percent of adults smoke cigarettes. The government-owned Vietnam National Tobacco Corporation controls 55 percent of the cigarette market in the country, where cigarette taxes are very low.
Because the planned law prohibits purchase as well as sale, it will essentially criminalize Vietnamese vapers. Vietnam doesn’t seem to have a nicotine or vaping consumer rights organization to oppose the government’s decision.
Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy