Campaign for stricter tobacco control launched; 9 out of 10 Pinoys want smoking in public places prohibited

Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited.

The data was presented during the launch of “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines,” an electoral campaign led by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD). The group challenged candidates for the 2019 polls by demanding that they support stricter tobacco control legislation.

The PLCPD showed the results of a nationwide survey on smoking conducted from January 26 to 31, 2019 by Pulse Asia which revealed that nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that the minimum age of those allowed to buy and use cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 25 years old.

“The results of this survey show that the Filipino public is very open and receptive to essential legislative reforms that can be done as regards to tobacco control. May this piece of information have a deep impact on candidates for the 2019 midterm polls, for them to resolutely pursue measures that will contribute to a smoke-free Philippines,” said PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto.

1 in 4 Pinoys are smokers

The result of the Pulse Asia also showed that almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) aged 18 years and above say they do not use tobacco, with 62% saying that they never used tobacco in their life, almost one in four Filipinos aged 18 years and above (24%) use tobacco, with 19% saying they are daily tobacco smokers.

“These figures demonstrate that smoking is a serious problem and how it is rooted in Philippine society. Despite recent strides that our nation has taken to control tobacco use, we still have a long way to go,” Dongeto explained.

The severity of the smoking problem is the reason why the iChange Campaign was launched, a drive in time for the election season. The specific goal of the campaign is to make smoking an issue at the forefront of electoral debates in order to gather support from candidates who will be elected and who will eventually become legislators.

The iChange Campaign intend to gather commitments to enact stricter laws on tobacco control on those who are vying for a legislative seat.

Among the groups who were present during the launching of the iChange campaign were HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Social Watch Philippines, and Youth for Sin Tax. The groups highlighted the policy reforms needed by the country and why it is important to talk about tobacco control during the election period.

The Dept. of Health was represented by Dr. Charl Andrew Bautista who discussed the burden of tobacco use on Filipino health.

“The elections is what we call the noon for public clamor for we all know that this is the period that the candidates are most receptive to public opinion. This is the reason why anti-tobacco advocates needs to sound a louder alarm bells on tobacco use,” stressed Dongeto.

The group also hope that voters will consider health issues as a top priority in their selection of candidates to vote for in the May midterm polls.

At the forefront of the iChange campaign in the pols is a call to support effort to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211) by expanding the definition of places where smoking is banned; raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and to increase the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 to make cost of cigarettes prohibitive.

At the heart on all of these demands for amendments is for government to generate revenues to support the universal healthcare program.

“Evidence of overwhelming public support for these amendments is already evident. Nine out of 10 Filipinos agree for stricter laws that control tobacco. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators to act,” Dongeto concluded.

After the launching last February 28, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign will hold a series of media events and voters’ education forums in Laguna, Albay, Cebu City, and Iloilo City.IMT

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