From Left to Right: President of New Vois of the Philippines Engr. Emer Rojas WHO Country Representative Dr. Gundo Aurel Weiler Secretary of Health Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial Executive Director, FCTC Alliance Philippines Dr. Ma. Encarnita Limpin
President Rodrigo Duterte recently issued Executive Order 26, which strengthens the implementation of our existing tobacco control laws, particularly in the promotion of smoke-free environments. The example President Duterte gave us during his years of service as mayor of Davao City – one of the first 100 percent Smoke-Free Cities in the Western Pacific Region and in ASEAN – is hopefully something we can replicate all over the Philippines. The DOH will soon issue an IRR to complement EO 26.
Smoking does not only impact negatively on a person’s health. It is also a hindrance to our collective aspirations as a country.  In the Philippines, the cost of a single pack of the cheapest brand of cigarettes is equivalent to the amount of money that could have bought 38 cups of uncooked rice. That is enough to feed a family of four for about five days.
This year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ theme is “Tobacco: a threat to development. Tobacco alone has a significant impact in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world’s commitment to ending poverty. Tobacco use takes money away from a family’s budget for basic needs such as food, education, and shelter.
Every year, tobacco use kills 87,000 Filipinos, which are more than the number of deaths due to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined leading to an annual economic loss of approximately Php 271 billion from tobacco-related hospitalization and productivity losses. The 2015 Philippines’ Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) reported over 17 million Filipino adults have smoked tobacco products – 42% among men and 6% among women. While there has been a substantial decrease since 2009, a significantly large number of Filipinos will face possibly irreversible health damage in the coming years subsequently putting a strain on the capacity of the health sector to cushion the impact.
Tobacco farming and production damages the environment. Apart from the loss of valuable natural and agricultural resources to tobacco farms, the industrial processes involved in tobacco production take a major toll on the ecosystem as the use of wood in drying the product results in even more deforestation and even more carbon dumped into the atmosphere.
For these reasons, this year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), “Tobacco – a threat to development” makes explicit the crucial and very real link between tobacco and SDGs.
Conversely, every effort to reduce tobacco consumption directly benefits individuals, societies, and global development targets.
“The Department of Health, being the lead agency in the implementation for the fulfillment of comprehensive smoking ban, ensures its strict 100% compliance towards a smoke-free Philippines,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial concluded.