The Department of Health, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), Civil Society Organizations, developmental partners, and advocates, will observe the annual World No Tobacco Day on the 31st  of May and the National No Smoking Month throughout the month of June. This year’s local theme, “Protektahan ang Kabataang Pilipino sa Impluwensya ng Industriya ng Tobako”, aims to respond to the systematic, aggressive, and sustained tactics of the tobacco industry to attract a new generation of tobacco users— the youth.
Various activities such webinars and competitions on Instagram and TikTok will be rolled out to educate the youth on the marketing tactics and the detrimental effects and risks of conventional cigarettes, electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems, heated tobacco products and other novel tobacco products.
Globally, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year from direct use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Locally, there are 16.6 million Filipino adult tobacco users.
Among Filipino students aged 13 to 15 years old, tobacco use increased from 13.7% in 2011 to 16% in 2015 based on the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Moreover, 42.7% of Filipino students have already heard of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and 11.7% of them already tried or experimented with the device.
“This has now become our biggest problem as electronic cigarettes have been linked to conventional cigarette use,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III explained, adding that the longitudinal study published by Dr. Bold, from Yale University found that high school students who reported using e-cigarettes were 7 times more likely to report subsequent conventional cigarette use.
For the past decade, the Philippines has made great strides in implementing policy reforms that aim to reduce the burden of tobacco use. Aside from tax measures, the government successfully pushed for the legislation of several non-tax policies and population-level interventions to address the threat of tobacco usage. This includes Executive Order No. 106 (s. 2020) which complements RA 11467 (alcohol and e-cig taxes) by expanding the coverage of the public smoking ban in public places to include e-cigarettes.
The passage of Republic Act No. 11467 last January 2020 increased taxes on heated tobacco and vapor products, set the minimum allowable age for sale and distribution of these products to 21 years old, limited the flavors of the juice/solution to plain tobacco and plain menthol, and strengthened the role of the FDA in regulating these products.
With these, local chief executives are called on to pass stringent ordinances consistent with tobacco control laws and policies. This resonates louder as the world battles COVID-19— a novel disease known primarily to attack the lungs. It is now imperative that effective tobacco control legislations are instituted in the local government to protect the health of Filipinos.
We urge every individual to join the campaign to prevent the youth from starting the habit of smoking and support current tobacco users to QUIT NOW!
“We are committed to fortify our efforts to establish a smoke-free new normal and discourage the youth from taking up the habit of smoking. Sama-sama nating protektahan ang kabataang Pilipino sa impluwensya ng industriya ng Tobako! Be smart, don’t ever start (smoking),” Duque concluded.