The Final Frontier for the Tobacco Industry: The Other Half

One of the dreams of the tobacco and alcoholic beverages industries is to persuade more young women to smoke and drink, following in the footsteps of their fathers and brothers. According to a 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 45.3% of men and 1.1% of women smoked. That’s a lot of untapped con$umer potential.

Six years later, my guess is that this percentage is considerably higher though still probably under 5%. This is based on anecdotal evidence. I’ve seen more young (and older) women smoking. Cigarettes are widely available and relatively inexpensive, depending upon which brand you choose. (There are some that sell for less than $1 USD a pack.). It doesn’t matter that the government has placed restrictions on advertising. The legal age for smoking is 18 but I doubt if many shops check a customer’s ID unlike the US, for example, where cashiers were checking my age for alcoholic beverage purchase decades after I turned 21.

As you can see from the photo, smoking is part of a lifestyle, an image. Nicotine-based vaping is also popular among young people. It’s cool to smoke, as it was for my parent’s generation. (I’m a late baby boomer.) And, as anyone who’s ever smoked a cigarette can attest to, that nicotine rush feels soo good. After you’ve smoked for a while, your body and mind can’t live without them. Cigarettes are also one of those consumer products that makes many of its customers sick and kills them in the long term. Since the market has been steadily declining in countries like the US, the tobacco industry needs to keep exploring new terrain and hooking new customers, including in Viet Nam. Once someone is addicted, that’s one less person the industry needs to market its product to until they pass away.

Vietnam had the world’s 92nd highest cancer rate out of 185 countries and territories in 2020, up seven places from 2018, according to a biannual ranking released by International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), a non-profit scientific organization that aims to further research in cryptology and related fields.. The cancer rate in 2020 was 159.7 per 100,000, which ranked 16th in Asia. Vietnam reported 182,563 new cases of cancer last year with liver cancer being the most common (14.5%), followed by lung cancer (14.4%), breast cancer in women (11.8%), stomach cancer (9.8%) and colorectal cancer (9%).

The age-standardized rate of cancer mortality in Vietnam was 106 per 100,000 and the risk of dying from cancer before the age of 75 was 11.2%. The mortality rate is so high because Vietnamese tend to wait too long before seeking treatment. The causes of cancer include air and water pollution, diet (including alcohol consumption among men), and smoking.

Let’s hope the percentage of Vietnamese women who smoke remains low for their sake and that of the nation’s fragile healthcare system.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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