Evidence and decision making: tobacco control policy and legislation in Vietnam


H. Higashi, The University of Queensland, School of Population Health, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia. E-mail: h.higashi@uqconnect.edu.au


The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Vietnam is currently drafting the Tobacco Harm Prevention Law. The government requested the MOH to provide evidence on the strategies proposed in the draft law as part of its submission to the National Assembly. This study examines the availability and strength of evidence and its relationship to policy stakeholders' positions towards policy instruments proposed in the law.

Several qualitative methods were employed including documentary analysis, key informant interviews, focus group discussion and a key stakeholders' survey.

Contradictory findings were identified over the role of evidence. While there is high demand for local evidence, the availability and strength of evidence are not always aligned with stakeholders' positions with respect to different strategies. Stakeholders' positions are shaped by competing interests on the basis of their perceptions of the socioeconomic implications and health consequences of tobacco control. Claims of limited availability of evidence are often used to justify the maintenance of the status quo, a position that is seen to protect the state-owned tobacco industry and state revenue. Local evidence of the impact of tobacco on population health is argued to be ‘one-sided’ and evidence of selected interventions discounted.

Compelling and comprehensive local evidence, including those addressing economic concerns, is acutely needed in order to proceed with the current legislation process. For evidence to play a critical role, it needs to engage those ministries responsible for the tobacco industry itself and the economic development. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.