The Vietnamese government has pledged to clamp down on smoking and promote smoke-free areas, as the number of smokers in the country slowly drops.

Nguyen Trong Khoa, the vice-director of the medical service administration, said the pledge was made at the 6th Regional Meeting of Smoke-free Cities in the Asia-Pacific Region, which was held in Hoi An on November 20, Viet Nam News reported.

More than 100 officials from Asian countries took part in discussions about building a smoke-free cities network, where Nguyen stated that Vietnam would get tougher on smoking violations and introduce sanctions on tobacco production.

He added that of 174 countries, Vietnam was the 47th to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control proposed by the World Health Organization.

Statistics about Vietnam’s smokers were also shared. Nguyen said the number of male smokers went down to 45.3% from 47.2%. The ministry of health is also set to ask the government to impose higher taxes on tobacco as well as punish public smokers.

According to a WHO report, about 170,000 Vietnamese die from heart complications and strokes, with 33% of them linked with smoking.

Seven million people are reportedly killed by tobacco every year.