Tobacco control measures saved more than one million lives in the Philippines

Bangkok, 22 March 2017: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) commends the Philippines on the results of its second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) which reported that from 2009 to 2015, 1.1 million Filipinos have kicked the smoking habit due to life-saving tobacco control measures.

According to the survey, tobacco use prevalence fell from 29.7 percent in 2009 to 23.8 percent in 2015. “The decline just proves that evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) such as high tobacco taxes and graphic health warnings (GHW) are effective,” said SEATCA Executive Director, Ms. Bungon Ritthiphakdee.

“The Philippine Sin Tax Reform implemented in 2012 is a shining example for other countries. The GATS results should encourage the Philippine government to maintain the current unitary tax structure and further increase rates to make tobacco products less affordable,” she added.

Another important result in the survey is the notable decline in exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) in homes and public places. In government buildings, exposure to SHS dropped from 25.5 percent in 2009 to 13.6% in 2015, and in homes from 54.4% in 2009 to 34.7% in 2015.

“Despite this, exposure to SHS still poses a major public health problem in the Philippines. The Philippines being a Party to the global health treaty, the WHO FCTC, is under legal obligation to ensure 100% smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places that are compliant to the FCTC’s Article 8 (Smoke-free) Guidelines. We are looking forward to President Duterte’s strong Smoke-free Executive Order soon,” remarked Ritthiphakdee.

In 2016, the Philippines became the seventh ASEAN country to implement graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging to effectively warn the public on the harms of tobacco use. Because of these warnings, the percentage of current smokers who thought of quitting smoking increased significantly (37.4% in 2009 to 44.6% in 2015).

Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of premature death, disease and disability presently causing about 500,000 deaths in the ASEAN region annually. In the Philippines, more than 87,000 Filipinos die each year from tobacco-related diseases.

“The GATS survey results are saying loud and clear that countries must align their tobacco control measures with the WHO FCTC to address the tobacco epidemic – one of the most important and urgent public health priorities of our time. Again, our hearty congratulations to the Philippines and we hope the GATS results will assist the Philippines in translating data into action to further strengthen tobacco control policies and programs,” uttered Ritthiphakdee.

Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA

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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance working to promote health and save lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.


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