By Joel E. Zurbano
Ten Filipinos die every hour from diseases related to smoking, according to Health Justice Philippines and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
Dr. Mary Assunta, SEATCA policy advisor, said the number of deaths from smoking is now at an alarming level as the group urged the Aquino administration to review the tobacco control program to minimize the number of casualties.
`“Nicotine is considered addictive and so every individual must seriously consider the warning,” Assunta said.
Lawyer Ma. Paz Luna of Health Justice, considered death by smoking as a global epidemic with 87,600 the number of casualties a year, or around 240 daily deaths, in the Philippines.
World Health Organization data showed that “tobacco kills nearly six million people worldwide each year and the death toll could rise to more than eight million by year 2030 unless immediate action is taken”.
It also showed that of the six million, five million died due to direct smoking while more than 600, 000 are those exposed to second-hand smoke.
WHO study stated that anti-smoking campaign advertisements and graphic pack warnings, especially those that include pictures, help reduce the number of minors who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit.
The graphic pack warnings is being enforced in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand.
But in the Philippines, according to HJP and SEATCA, the graphic health warning law requiring tobacco manufacturers to print photos of the ill effects of smoking have not been fully implemented.
This despite the Philippines being a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty in 2005 that resulted in the signing into law of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act.
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral alliance established to support ASEAN countries in developing and putting in place effective tobacco control policies while Health Justice is a non-government organization with an advocacy to reduce the number of smokers in the Philippines.
The Metro Manila Development Authority is implementing an information campaign through the social media (@MMDA Facebook and Twitter accounts) sending warnings given to smokers caught in public places.
The agency also come up with online posting of images with a message telling the public “#respect the (no smoking) sign”
Lawyer Emerson Carlos, MMDA assistant general manager for operations, said aside from the information campaign, the agency also has a special team roaming around the metropolis apprehending smokers in public places and conveyances.
“This is a continuing effort of the government to prevent smoking in public places and also to protect the people, especially the children and pregnant women, against second hand smoke,” he said.
Non-smoking adults exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work have a 25% to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Babies of non-smoking women who are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy are at risk of experiencing a small reduction in birth weight.
The MMDA created and deputized its mint green-polo shirt uniformed team tagged as “Environment Enforcers” with the help of local government units to apprehend violators.
The Tobacco Regulation Act is enforced in all hospitals, medical clinics, schools, public transportation terminals and offices, and buildings such as private and public offices, recreational places, shopping malls, movie houses, hotels restaurants and the like.
The fine consisted of P500 to P1,000 on first offense; those who cannot afford to pay are obliged to do an eight-hour community service.
A P5,000 fine and cancellation/revocation of franchise or business permit can also be imposed against the establishments where smokers are caught.