Philippines: 9 out of 10 Filipinos agree to prohibit smoking in public places

2019 poll candidates challenged to support stricter tobacco control legislation

Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited according to the results of a national survey on smoking conducted by PulseAsia from January 26 to 31.

Presented during the launch of “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines,” an electoral campaign led by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), the results of the nationwide survey also reveal that nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that the minimum age of those allowed to buy and use cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 25 years old.

“The results of this survey show that the Filipino public is very open and receptive to essential legislative reforms that can be done as regards tobacco control. May this piece of information have a deep impact on candidates for the 2019 midterm polls, for them to resolutely pursue measures that will contribute to a smoke-free Philippines,” said PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto.

1 in 4 Pinoys are smokers

The Pulse Asia survey also reveals that while almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) aged 18 years and above say they do not use tobacco, with 62% saying that they never used tobacco in their life, almost one in four Filipinos aged 18 years and above (24%) use tobacco, with 19% saying they are daily tobacco smokers.

“These figures show how deep the smoking problem is rooted in Philippine society. Despite recent strides our nation has taken to control tobacco use, we still have a long way to go. That is why we are launching the iChange campaign, a drive we are pursuing in time for the election season, with the specific goal of making this issue be at the forefront of electoral debates and garner support from incoming elected officials towards crafting and enacting stricter laws on tobacco control,” Dongeto explained.

“Health is being assailed by the tobacco epidemic both in the Philippines and across the world. The top ten causes of diseases, most of which are non-communicable or non-infectious diseases, accounts for around 30 million deaths every year – equivalent to 70 percent of all deaths. In the Philippines, the estimates as you heard 10 years ago was that 10 Filipinos die every hour from tobacco use. Fast forward to 10 years, the estimate is now between 10 to 15 to as high as 17 Filipinos dying every hour from smoking. In a year, that comes to more than 145,000 to 148,000 Filipinos dying unnecessarily which can be prevented if you do not smoke. In a sense, these deaths could be prevented entirely by our legislators who are running for elections by putting in place policies necessary to help our people to not start smoking,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) who is one of the resource speakers during the launch.

Also present during the launch were representatives from the Department of Health, HealthJustice, Social Watch Philippines, and Youth for Sin Tax. The groups highlighted the policy reforms needed by the country and why it is important to talk about tobacco control during the election period.

“The election period is what we call the noon for public clamor, as we all know that candidates running for public office are most receptive to public opinion during this period. That’s why advocates need to sound the alarms on tobacco use even louder at this moment in time. We also hope that voters will consider important issues such as health in making the important decision of choosing whom to vote,” Dongeto stressed.

The iChange campaign called on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and increase the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 to make cigarette prices prohibitive and to generate revenue to support the government’s universal healthcare program.

“Evidence of overwhelming public support for these amendments is here. Nine out of 10 Filipinos agree to stricter tobacco control laws. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Dongeto concluded.

After the launch on February 28, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign will hold a series of media events and voters’ education forums in Laguna, Albay, Cebu City, and Iloilo City. 

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