HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion supports the World Health Organization (WHO) in calling all countries to prioritize and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of the responses to the 2030 Agenda of sustainable development.
WHO campaigns to combat the threats posed by tobacco by encouraging government and civil society participation in actively developing tobacco control plans and strategies for a sustainable and tobacco-free development.
Tobacco – a threat to development
More than 7 million deaths caused by tobacco use are recorded every year, a figure from the WHO which is predicted to grow to more than 8 million a year by 2030 if without intensified action on the part of governments. Tobacco use is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.
Smoking worsens poverty because the money spent on cigarettes eat up what little money that poor families may spend on food, healthcare, shelter, and education. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the Philippines (GATS), the average monthly expenditure for cigarettes was 678.4 pesos; 55.5% of current smokers attempted to quit smoking because of the price of cigarettes.
“Smoking is not just a simple habit – it is an addiction which contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty in the Philippines. Studies show that the lowest quintile of the population spends more on cigarettes than on their health or education. Poor families’ consumption of cigarettes will not decline if they just shift to cheaper brands. Smoking also harms their families and other people around them due to exposure to second-hand smoke,” said HealthJustice Philippines’ President, Mary Ann Mendoza.
Role of the Government
The Smoking ban in the Philippines that was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last May 16, 2017 forbids the use of tobacco in all public and enclosed places is a positive step towards achieving expanding smoke-free places in the country.
Under the local government code, local government units (LGUs) have the responsibility to enact ordinances for the general welfare of their constituents. They also have the full authority to implement them within their areas of jurisdiction, including the imposition of penalties on offenders.
“Both the national and local government should do its part in implementing the smoking ban. We also encourage LGUs to strictly regulate indoor DSA’s to protect people, especially the children, from the harms of second and third-hand smoke by complying with the standards set forth by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty signed into by the Philippines in 2005,” Mary Ann Mendoza added.