Let’s stop smoking!!!”, students of the University of the Cordilleras chanted in unison.
In celebration of World No Tobacco Day, HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, and Millennials Philippines (Millennials PH), a group promoting the active involvement of the youth in the promotion of social justice, partnered up to talk to the youth of Baguio City about health and tobacco use.
Last May 28, HealthJustice and Millennials PH mounted “LSS: Let’s Stop Smoking”, a “health and tobacco summit” at the University of Cordilleras. It aims to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco consumption, both direct and indirect, among the youth, who are considered to be the main target market of the tobacco industry. Participants included over a hundred students taking up different courses at the university.
The resource speakers were Councillor Joel Alangsab, author of Baguio City’s smoke-free ordinance; Dr. Donna Lorenzana Tubera-Panes of Baguio City’s Health Office; Aunell Ross Angcos, spokesperson of the Millenials PH; Ralph Emerson Degollacion, Project Manager at HealthJustice; and Ebenezer Bonbon, Project Assistant at HealthJustice. Meryl Jalani, National President of Millennials PH, delivered the closing remarks.
“The importance of reaching out to the youth and encouraging them to adopt healthy habits cannot be overemphasized. The tobacco industry does not see them as precious human beings whose lives are sacred. The youth are described by the industry merely as ‘replacement smokers’ upon whom the survival of their business depends. It is incumbent upon us to equip the youth to meet head on the challenges that this industry will pose against their very lives,” said Atty. Jak Sarita, Managing Director of HealthJustice.
“According to the 2015 Global Youth and Tobacco Survey, 16% of 13-15 year old students use tobacco products. 10.9% of these teenagers smoke in schools. Everywhere we look, from the gigantic posters of cigarettes mounted in sari-sari stores to the promodizers invading public spaces frequented by the youth at night, we see the many ways the tobacco industry circumvents measures instituted precisely to protect the youth from the harms of tobacco. We must empower the youth to protect their right to health especially against all the attempts of the tobacco industry to defeat it,” said Aunell Ross Angcos, spokesperson of Millennials PH.
It was the second time the said health summit was held. The first was last May 5 at the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines. That summit attracted also over a hundred participants enrolled in various universities in the National Capital Region. The topics discussed in both summits include tobacco tax, the dangers of vaping, the prevalence of smoking, tobacco industry tactics, and health promotion.
HealthJustice and Millennials PH hope to replicate the summit in many more areas in the Philippines and reach out to more young Filipinos and encourage them to adopt healthy habits and aid local governments in adopting or effectively enforcing smoke-free ordinances and similar health measures.
HealthJustice Philippines is Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a member of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates and organizations working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases worldwide.
Millennials PH is a youth-led organization espousing meaningful and effective participation of Millennials in the development of the country.
Download press release here.