17 March 2017:
Different health groups on Wednesday urged Philippine President Duterte to sign a 100% Smoke-Free Executive Order now to save thousands of Filipinos from preventable deaths and diseases caused by tobacco smoke.
In a press conference organized by the New Vois Associtation of the Philippines Inc. (NVAP) and Philippine Laryngectomee Club Inc., NVAP President Emer Rojas said the longer the smoking ban is not signed and implemented the higher the risk for Filipinos to contract cancer and other lifestyle-borne diseases.
82,468 new cancer cases are expected to occur in the Philippines. Recent studies conducted in the Philippines show steady increase in cancer incidence. Smoking is a known factor that causes cancer as tobacco products contain 70 cancer-causing chemicals.
The Philippines being a Party to the global treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), is under legal obligation to ensure 100% smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places that are compliant to the FCTC’s Article 8 (Smoke-free) Guidelines.
Health groups express their hope that the EO will follow the anti-smoking ordinance of Davao City which was implemented when President Duterte was the city mayor. Davao City’s successful no smoking ordinance serves as a best practice for cities and municipalities internationally and imposes a total ban on smoking including areas inside buildings that were designated smoking stations.
Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) FCTC Program Director, Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo shared that other countries who implemented a strong and FCTC-compliant smoke-free policies proved successful in reducing the prevalence of smoking especially among the youth. Smoke-free bars and restaurants in Ireland, Hongkong and Singapore also proved that smoking bans don’t impact sales negatively. In fact, there are studies which prove that sales increase because people who don’t normally go these establishments now patronize them because of their no smoking policy.
Atty. Jim Asturias, Legal Consultant from Health Justice also added that an urgent implementation of the EO will protect school children from secondhand smoke as the ban will cover smoking near schools and shopping malls. He also emphasized that the EO is ultimately for the protection of non-smokers.
Osang Palma of Matinik Women’s Organization underlined that a ban on smoking is also likely to save many unborn babies from birth defects and infant death syndrome as mothers who smoke may be encouraged to quit the habit.
Everyone agreed that it is the tobacco industry which is causing the delay of the signing of the EO.