7,000 people die annually in Laos from smoking-related illnesses

About 7,000 people die annually in Laos, or 19 people per day, from smoking-related illnesses, including non-smokers who succumb after years of breathing second-hand smoke.

A total of 428 million U.S. dollars has been spent on the treatment of people suffering from such illnesses, accounting for 2.24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Lao Economic Daily on Thursday quoted Lao Minister of Health, Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, as saying at an event marking the global and national No Tobacco Day in Vientiane on Monday that the number of smokers aged above 15 in the Southeast Asian country has risen from 25.5 percent in 2012 to nearly 28 percent in 2015 of the population.

"The environment is affected by deforestation for tobacco plantations and the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides, while tobacco processing for cigarettes requires tons of firewood, which also affects the forests," said Bounfeng.

According to a national survey conducted in 2016 among youngsters aged 13 to 15, 10.7 percent of boys and 2.1 percent of girls smoked cigarettes, while 5 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, smoked e-cigarettes.

Bounfeng called on smokers to reduce or quit smoking in order to prevent themselves and people around them from being affected by second-hand smoke and smoking-related health issues such as heart disease, cancer and lung problems.

To control smoking, the government imposed heavy fines on tobacco rule violators in 2019, while both producers and importers of tobacco products can be penalized with large fines and additional measures if the tobacco packages fail to carry the required instructions and health warnings.

Tobacco products sold without instructions or health warnings will be confiscated and destroyed, according to the Lao Economic Daily report. 

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