Know someone who died from tobacco-related causes? Well, 240 more like him died in the Philippines today. The Department of Health has said that 10 Filipinos die every hour from a disease caused by his own smoking. The Philippines is one of the top 20 smoking nations in the world, with 87,600 tobacco-related deaths yearly. World-wide, tobacco’s death toll is expected to rise from 100 million in the 20thcentury to 1 billion in the 21st century. Over 40% of the world’s population is mandating graphic health warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packs to help motivate smokers to quit.  Inexplicably, the Philippines still has not.
Health advocates hope to remedy this with the speedy passing of the GHW bill filed by Senator Pia Cayetano and co-sponsored by Senator Franklin Drilon, and of its counterpart versions filed by Representatives Marcelino Teodoro, Niel Tupas, Teodorico Haresco, and Raul Daza. “We can save so many lives sooner if both houses can pass the first reading of this life-saving measure by January 16,” said Atty. Diana Triviño, Legal Consultant of public health NGO HealthJustice.
Graphic health warnings are perceived as one of the most effective smoking deterrents. GHWs have emerged as an important element of tobacco control, especially in low and middle-income countries, which have less resources to spend on media and education campaigns.
“GHWs are the most cost-effective means to warn smokers about the effects of smoking, because tobacco companies themselves pay for the cost of printing on the packs,” adds Triviño. “This is only reasonable because it is their products which will expose their clients to death and disease.”
Tobacco control defenders are sounding the call for the GHW bill’s passing, emphasizing that these will more effectively motivate smokers to quit, given their stronger visual impact.
2/3 of all smokers consider the cigarette pack as an important source of health information, associating it with an intention to quit smoking.Nine out of ten Filipino adults believe smoking causes serious illness,but this belief is not acted on because the text-only warnings on our cigarette packs do little to prevent them from smoking.
“Implementing GHWs is one of the easiest ways to convince a smoker to quit and to discourage nonsmokers from even starting,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice. “Pack-a-day smokers will encounter the cigarette packs with GHWs at least 20 times a day. This is a practical and necessary step which will effectively save lives.”