MANILA, Philippines – This March, tobacco companies and suppliers return to Pasay City for ProTobEx Asia, a trade show featuring innovations and merchandise in the industry. The tobacco expo’s return to the Philippines has been met with much resistance from public health advocates, who say that the government’s continued sanction of the trade show is inconsistent with its stand on public health. “When you promote tobacco, you put down our health,” said Emer Rojas, President of the New Vois Association of the Philippines, an organization composed of cancer victims and disabled persons, many of whom attribute their illnesses to tobacco. “Don’t sacrifice our health for profit. No amount of money can justify death and disease. We lose more than what is gained in the long run,” he added.
At last year’s expo, thousands of cancer victims, health advocates, parents, and students protested outside the venue, united in their cry that there should be “No Deal with the Tobacco Industry”. The protesters held photos of tobacco victims past and present, with slogans that said “Pano na ako ngayon?”, “Iwaksi ang paninigarilyo”, and “Sigarilyo, Ikaw ang May Sala!”. In contrast to these protests, the expo organizers brazenly flaunted a waiver supposedly issued by the Pasay City government, which allowed the venue to be treated as an indoor smoking area. Those who entered the exhibit had to sign a form upon entering, stating that they accepted that there would be smoking inside the venue. Organizers are again claiming that the Pasay City government has issued such waiver this year. Health supporters vow to protest once again in order to show the expo organizers and exhibitors that their deadly products are unwelcome here. They also seek to remind the Pasay City government that they should make health the prime consideration.
The protest against Asia’s largest tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS) event is timely, in light of international developments that further limit the allowable scope of TAPS activities. Recently, tobacco control advocates won a public battle against tobacco giant Gallaher, after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), UK’s independent advertising regulator, ruled that the company’s advertisement campaigns were “misleading”. It is this kind of deceitful manipulations by the tobacco industry that the health champions are opposing.
“The Philippines is obliged to implement a comprehensive ban on all TAPS activities under Article 13 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The conduct of ProTobEx Asia in the Philippines violates this obligation,” stated Atty. Diana Trivino, Project Manager at public health NGO HealthJustice.
“TAPS create the false impression that smoking is socially acceptable and desirable, and it does so while distracting from tobacco’s serious health effects,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice. “Smoking kills half of its users, and it is through TAPS activities like ProTobEx that tobacco companies lure new customers to their deadly products. The Philippines should continue the good work it began with the Sin Tax law. By ending tobacco promotions such as this in the country, we can prove how genuine our concern is for our people’s health” she added.
CONTACT: SOPHIA LEE (MEDIA CONSULTANT)
DIANA TRIVINO (PROJECT MANAGER)