Philippines 15th among 23 Western Pacific countries with youth smokers

3 July 2016

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines ranks 15th out of the 23 countries in the Western Pacific with youth smokers.

In the report made by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Youth and Tobacco Survey (GYTS) 2005-2014, 13.7 percent of students aged 13 to 15 years surveyed in the Philippines admitted to being “current tobacco users.”

In GYTS, current tobacco use is defined as “having used any tobacco product, smoked and smokeless, at least once in the last 30 days.”

The GYTS was conducted in the past decade in 23 countries in the Western Pacific among 122,000 students aged 13-15. They represent more than 65 million youth in this age group in the region.

The results present an overview of the status of youth tobacco use in the Western Pacific.

The report also highlights the need for continued vigilance and robust actions to protect youth from the harmful effects of tobacco.

Globally, tobacco claims six million lives each year. Thirty percent of all tobacco-related deaths occur in the Western Pacific region.

Most smokers start using tobacco at a young age and continue throughout adulthood. As a consequence, a significant proportion will experience tobacco-related illness and death.

WHO said prevention of tobacco use among youth is essential to reduce the increasing global burden of non-communicable diseases.

“Monitoring youth uptake of tobacco use is of critical importance in all countries of the Western Pacific, as the tobacco industry continues to target young people,” the report said.

The effects of the tobacco epidemic are shown in higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease in adults, resulting in premature disease and death.

“Tobacco surveillance and monitoring are essential components of international policies to tobacco control,” WHO regional director for Western Pacific Shin Young-soo said.

“We must remain vigilant to ensure that the future of our youth won’t be marred by tobacco’s deplorable harms. To use the youth as today’s tobacco customers is unacceptable,” he added.

The report showed the prevalence of current tobacco use ranges widely, from 4.0 percent in Vietnam to 47.7 percent in Papua New Guinea. The overall prevalence for the 23 countries is 8.2 percent or 5.3 million students.

The prevalence for boys exceeds 50 percent in the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

While Asian countries overall have relatively lower prevalence compared to the Pacific, one in every three boys in Malaysia, and one in every five boys in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia and the Philippines are tobacco users.

The prevalence of current tobacco use for girls is low, but still exceeds 20 percent in nearly half of the countries surveyed.