The government continues to accept offers of assistance or collaboration with the tobacco industry, specifically with policy discussions on controlling illicit trade. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) also enlisted state-owned Vietnam Tobacco Association (Vinataba) as a committee member to draft penalties and protections of consumer rights as related to the illicit trade of tobacco. Vinataba has also participated in several government inter-agency committee meetings to set policies on illicit trade, where it recommended using or diverting the Tobacco Control Fund for controlling tobacco smuggling. The Vietnamese delegation to the last COP did not include any representative from the tobacco industry.
Although there is a ban on certain types of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, there is no practical difference in the extent of activities conducted by the tobacco industry. Vinataba and other tobacco companies support a variety of programs for disadvantaged students, educational facilities improvement, social enterprise, subsidies for war veterans and more. These CSR activities bring the tobacco industry in contact with high-profile government officials, including the Prime Minister.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) did not accommodate a request from Vinataba to temporarily suspend a scheduled tax hike. However, the government has an existing bilateral agreement with Cambodia, which sets 0% import tax for dried tobacco leaves. Also, travelers can still bring up to 200 cigarettes, 20 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco into Vietnam, duty free.
There is documentation of top-level officials attending social functions organized by the tobacco industry. For example, the Vice President of the National Assembly met with the President of Philip Morris International (South and Southeast Asia), where PMI promoted its new “less harmful tobacco products” as an investment in Vietnam. Also, the Deputy Minister of the MOIT attended the 50th anniversary of Trade Bac Son Tobacco Company, which was given an award by the government.
The government has accepted assistance from the tobacco industry for its tobacco control activities, such as the compulsory fund collection from tobacco manufacturers for control of illicit trade.
There are no rules or procedures for the disclosure of meetings or interactions with the tobacco industry—the government views interaction with the tobacco industry as normal. There are also no rules or procedures for disclosing or registering tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations and individuals acting on their behalf.
Vietnam is a single-party government, so there is no need for competitive election campaigns or donations. Currently, no evidence exists of retired government officials joining the tobacco business. While there are no recent appointments of current government officials to positions in the tobacco business, this practice still exists and most government officials appointed in previous years are still connected with Vinataba.
There are no policies or procedures to disclose the records of interaction with the tobacco industry, nor to implement a code of conduct for public officials. However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued an official dispatch cautioning other government ministries and offices not to cooperate or accept funding from the PMI-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW). Vinataba, as a state-owned business, is required to provide some reports to the MOIT and MOF periodically, but no information on lobbying, philanthropy or contributions is collected. There is also no program or plan to consistently raise awareness on Article 5.3.
Lastly, although not specific to the tobacco industry, there is an existing anti-corruption law that prohibits public servants from accepting all forms of contributions or gifts from the private sector. However, the government still requires the tobacco industry to provide funding and assistance related to controlling illicit trade.
- The state-owned tobacco enterprise Vinataba must be treated as any other tobacco business. The government must not enlist the tobacco industry as a stakeholder in policy development.
- Tobacco control funds must be used exclusively for public health education and promotion, and not to protect the tobacco industry’s business from illicit trade.
- Tobacco-related CSR activities must be banned completely.
- Benefits currently given to the tobacco industry, such as waiver of duties for export and promotional incentives, must be revoked.
- Interactions with the tobacco industry should be held only when and to the extent strictly necessary to effectively regulate the industry and its products.
- The government needs to establish a procedure for disclosing all records of interaction with the tobacco industry. Additionally, a code of conduct must be adopted to guide all government officials when dealing with the tobacco industry.
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