Philippines: Tobacco use by youth alarms lawmaker

24 October 2023

By Jester P. Manalastas, Journal News Online

A veteran solon is urging the government to step up efforts to discourage the youth from taking up “unhealthy habits” such as smoking and vaping.

Manila Representative Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. made the call after Philippines slipped in the 2023 Tobacco Industry Interference (TII) Index, a tool that uses several indicators to score the level of tobacco industry interference in government tobacco-related policymaking.

Abante stressed that fellow legislators and policymakers should be wary of the attempts of the tobacco industry “to introduce a whole new generation of Filipinos to unhealthy vices like smoking and vaping.”

Abante, chair of House Committee on Human Rights, said: “The country’s score in the [Tobacco Industry Interference] Index is a wake up call for those of us who are committed to protect our youth from the evils of tobacco use.”

In the most recent TII index, the Philippines scored 60 in 2023, compared to 59 in 2022 and 58 in 2021. A higher score indicates greater tobacco industry interference in government policymaking.

The TII index serves as a tool to monitor the progress in addressing tobacco industry interference and to assess how countries are implementing the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

“The Philippines is a signatory of this convention, so we are obligated to adopt measures that educate and inform our countrymen about the perils of tobacco, especially our impressionable youth,” Abante said.

“We have seen how difficult it is for smokers to kick this habit; napakahirap mag quit ng smoking! That is why it is imperative that the government, through agencies like the National Youth Commission, spearhead an aggressive campaign that will discourage our youth from taking up smoking and vaping,” he added.

According to the WHO FCTC website, the WHO FCTC “was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic and is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health.”

The convention was adopted by the World Health Assembly on May 21, 2003 and entered into force on February 27, 2005. It has since become one of the most rapidly and widely embraced treaties in United Nations history.


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