Philippines: Medical professionals, health experts call for stronger tobacco control measures

16 August 2021

Jhon Aldrin Casinas Source: Manila Bulletin

Members of medical professional associations and public health experts have called on Monday, Aug. 16 for stronger tobacco control measures as part of the country’s response against the ongoing pandemic.

Dr. Glynna Ong-Cabrera of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) said that smokers are more prone to developing severe symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“This is a virus that primarily attacks the lungs. Stronger smoking cessation campaigns and stronger tobacco control measures should be part of the Philippines’ response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Ong-Cabrera in a statement.

Ong-Cabrera heads Quitline, a smoking cessation program of the Department of Health (DOH) in partnership with the Lung Center of the Philippines.

For his part, Dr. Anton Javier of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP) expressed concern over the burden of tobacco-related illnesses.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were already on the way towards expensive and time-consuming health problems as a direct consequence of tobacco products,” Javier said.

Meanwhile, the medical doctors urged the government to strengthen tobacco control measures, such as the DOH-Civil Service Commission Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-001 (DOH-CSC JMC 2010-001).

The health professionals also called for an increase of support for local government units (LGUs) and hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not only should we encourage the public to quit smoking. We also need to protect our government agencies, LGUs, and hospitals from the influence of tobacco companies and their fronts during this pandemic,” said Dr. Donnabel Panes, head of Baguio City Health Services Office Epidemiology Surveillance Unit.

“A strong public health system is our biggest weapon against present and future pandemics. Tobacco companies are never a partner of public health,” she added.