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Strengthening political will for tobacco tax reform in Vietnam

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This project continues HealthBridge’s ongoing efforts to assist Vietnamese stakeholders to support, develop, adopt, and implement a stronger tobacco tax policy. Although Vietnam’s comprehensive tobacco control law has been in place since 2013, smoking rates in the country have declined only modestly. The prevalence of smoking among males remains particularly high, at 45.3%. One of the reasons for this lack of real progress is that current national policies on tobacco pricing and taxation, even those newly implemented, are still insufficient and ineffective for reducing tobacco consumption. Vietnam has the third lowest tobacco tax in the region (as a proportion of retail prices); in fact, growing economic prosperity in the country has actually increased tobacco affordability over the past decade.

The project focuses in particular on increasing awareness, capacity and political will to enact the necessary tobacco tax reforms. Many decision makers have been reluctant to further increase tobacco taxes. Lack of awareness of the proven benefits of higher taxes, and unjustified concerns about employment and smuggling, have been manipulated by the tobacco industry and fuels its interference in the political process. This project aims to overcome that interference by exposing the industry’s tactics and engaging public support for increased tobacco taxation, which will in turn encourage commitment from policy makers to strengthen the content of the upcoming tobacco excise tax proposal in 2018. HealthBridge’s contribution to the Excise Tax reform process includes providing technical assistance to the Tax Policy Department, engaging the media, developing and disseminating updated and factual communications materials, and building and supporting advocacy networks.