Government Health Warnings: An Effective Way to End Smoking

There is so much room for growth and improvement in the Philippine’s medical sector in terms of hospital facilities. In a report by the International Trade Organization, the total for medical imports reached as much as US$101 million just in 2004 alone, with an expected annual growth rate of 5%. In 2013, it grew to reach US$243.9 million which raised the forecasted rate of 5% to 7.1%.
This could be described as a reactive strategy wherein treatment to diseases is of primary focus and funds are being allocated to treat such diseases. On the other side, a health promotion strategy is being implemented where certain measures are considered to reduce sickness and disease from even happening. So which is the better approach – the curative or preventive?
Indeed hospital facilities require upgrading as well as medical personnel need continuous training. However as more patients are ushered into and treated in hospitals today, the reactive approach might not suffice. Prevention may be a better approach especially when it comes to non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer and other diseases brought about by smoking. The Philippines loses approximately 87,000 lives every year due to smoking-related deaths – that is 10 Filipinos every hour.
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) President Engr. Emer Rojas agrees that prevention is better than cure, “state-of-the-art equipment are vital components of the government health care system but I believe health promotion is a strategic means of reducing the morbidity and mortality rates in the Philippines. Policies such as Graphic Health Warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packs are examples of positive government actions towards that direction.
Studies show that in the long run, such policies raise the awareness of the general public that certain diseases may be avoided. “Once the unsightly illnesses and consequences caused by smoking are seen by the smoker, he may think twice about lighting up that stick,” Engr. Rojas said.
Moreso, graphic health warnings also discourage minors to start smoking. To note, during former Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s term, two tobacco-control laws were enacted – Republic Act 10351 (Sin Tax Law) in 2012 and Republic Act 10643 (Government Health Warning Law) in 2014.
Thailand currently tops the chart for holding the largest GHW covering at 85% both front and back of the packet. Since the introduction of their second set of graphic warnings in 2006, studies show that “53% made people think about the health risks and 44% of smokers said the warnings made them to think a lot more likely to quit over the next month”. From 9.53 million Thai smokers in 2006, the number declined to 9.49 million in 2007.
In the Philippines, GHW effectiveness is yet to be seen as RA10643 or the Graphic Health Warning Law took effect on August 7, 2014 and local tobacco companies were given eighteen months to comply. President Aquino signed into law RA10643 on July 18, 2014.
Besides GHW, Thailand has deploy best practices of preventive care. The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth) which gets its funds from a 2% surcharge collected from alcohol and tobacco excise tax. With this budget, academic centers for smoking control have been established, model clinics for quitting smoking have been developed, and campaigns for smoking reduction in public places have been implemented.
“Given Thailand’s notable healthcare programs on tobacco control, I’m really looking forward to the day we adopt the same programs like having support groups or clinics for those who want to quit smoking here in our country. This would ensure not only longer but healthier lives of Filipinos,” Engr. Rojas declares. #
Ms. Ima del Rosario
Media Officer
Mobile: 0917-8134224