Despite DOH efforts, Filipinos still smoke

DESPITE stringent measures to make smoking and access to tobacco products difficult, Health Sec. Jean Ubial said many Filipinos still go out of their way to smoke.

Ubial said tobacco products have already been made less affordable and accessible through taxation measures since 2013.

However, many continue to shell out “a substantial amount of their monthly income” to support smoking habits.

“There is still much to be done in our country’s efforts to limit and curtail tobacco use, especially for our economically disadvantaged countrymen who are the most affected with diseases linked to long use of tobacco products,” she said.

Ubial is hoping that the Executive Order that President Rodrigo Duterte set to sign this week will significantly change smoking habits.

The pending EO is aimed to ban smoking in all public places nationwide. When signed, it will be passed to DOH who will make the implementing rules and regulations.

She added that DOH is also in talks with the Department of Education to integrate drug and smoke-free curriculum in public schools.

“We are also working with other sectors like transportation and hotels to ensure that smokers and non-smokers have their own designated places,” she said.

Earlier this month, DOH noted a drop in smokers in the country, citing a global survey.

Comparative data from the 2009 and 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey indicated that there is a significant drop of tobacco use among Filipinos: from 29.7 percent in 2009 to 23.8 percent in 2015.

This translates to a decrease by 1.1 million smokers from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million smokers in 2015.

Ubial said this decrease means a leap in health: at least a million Filipinos have lowered the risk of developing cancer, heart ailments, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“This figure represents a relative reduction of close to 20% of smokers or in simpler terms, one million Filipinos have quit tobacco use—the biggest decline we have seen in Philippine history, and we can do more to stop the suffering caused by this epidemic,” Ubial said.

In a Mindanao Times interview, Ubial said “we can’t pinpoint decrease in smoking prevalence to just one factor.”

Taxation, graphic health warnings, and local ordinances contribute to changing smoking habits of the country.

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