|Hanoi’s police seize smuggled new-generation cigarettes. Experts say a period of at least 12 months is needed to study and come up with regulations for the use of new-generation cigarettes. VNA/VNS Photo|
Then trials might be done to assess and make amendments if required, they said.
There is a big ongoing debate on how to manage the use of new-generation cigarettes including electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated-tobacco-products (HTPs).
No solution has however been found since ministries and other relevant agencies have been unable to reach consensus.
The Government has instructed the Ministry of Industry and Trade to draft a legal framework for new-generation cigarettes amid a rapid increase in smuggled goods in the market.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has taken a stand that the product should be banned.
The Ministry of Science and Technology is considering technical criteria for the new generation of cigarettes.
Globally there is no consensus on how to manage new-generation, and each country has its own different policies on managing their use.
For instance, the EU is one of the markets that support the use of new-generation tobacco. Some other markets govern it like traditional cigarettes, and some are still studying the issue. There are a few countries that have decided to ban new-generation tobacco products.
In the Vietnamese market a ban is not feasible because there is demand, according to experts.
And, smuggled products are rife in the market.
However, since there is no consensus yet, Vietnam should not issue a specific legal framework.
It needs time to study and evaluate the socio-economic impacts of permitting the use of heating cigarettes and e-cigarettes, according to experts.
Phan Minh Thuy of the VCCI’s legal department said: “We need to have careful study before compiling any policy. Comprehensive studies on all aspects including standards, technical regulations, business regulations should be considered.”
Bui Quang Nghiem, director of Nghiem and Chinh Law Firm, said: “New-generation tobacco is still quite new, so we should be careful.”
He cited the examples of Grab and Uber to point out that when a new service appeared, Vietnam trialled them before adopting laws, and they are constantly updated since new management requirements arise, such as a recent one that commercial vehicles should have yellow licence plates.
“On heated cigarettes and e-cigarettes, there is no global consensus. Both management agencies and businesses do not yet have a clear understanding and so we need to make a careful study.”
He said during this period authorities in various sectors would make their own impact assessments.
The Government can create a suitable legal framework that safeguards its interests and also public health in line with the national strategy on mitigating the harm caused by tobacco and containing the illegal tobacco market.
12 months, a golden time
Experts suggested 12 months is the optimal period to carry out studies while still controlling tobacco smuggling, saying it is vital for Vietnamese tobacco companies because of the differences between traditional cigarettes and new-generation cigarettes.
But they have not made any preparations in terms of technology, machinery, expertise, or human resources.
This would have a negative impact on the industry’s human resources, suppliers and tobacco farmers, they warned.
The 12-month period is indispensable and should be considered carefully especially since businesses are in great difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They require time to revive the old traditional market before preparing for the production of new-generation products.
“The tobacco industry needs at least 12 months to prepare for competition and achieve stability before heated and e-cigarettes are imported,” a representative of the Vietnam Tobacco Association said.
He also emphasised that the new generation of tobacco products are all imported and have no precedence in the country.
“The socio-economic implications of legalising heating tobacco and e-cigarettes need to be fully assessed. This 12-month period will give the Government and regulators more time to assess the risks posed by these products to develop the most appropriate policies with long-term application.”
Nghiem said: “It needs to take at least 12 months to research and prepare for the competitiveness. This time is also enough for the Government to assess the risks of new-generation cigarettes.”
“Based on that, the Government can decide to legalise or continue trial to make precise impact assessments and appropriate adjustments to safeguard its interests and consumers' health and contain the illegal tobacco market.”
E-cigarettes and HTPs are the result of the global application of technology and still very new to Việt Nam's tobacco industry and regulators.
In Vietnam, they are available on various distribution channels, ranging from traditional stores to e-commerce websites and social networks. They are smuggled and traded illegally in the country and the frequency and number of seizures of e-cigarettes and HTPs sales have been gradually increasing. VNS
Vietnam should not legalise the use of e-cigarettes and heated-tobacco-products (HTPs) immediately but conduct a pilot phase allowing the production, import and trading of this new-generation cigarettes in the country, officials have said.