The Department of Health (DOH) opposed and dissociated from pro-tobacco industry statements made by the Philippine delegation in the ongoing 9th Conference of Parties (COP9) of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the discussion on the global progress in implementation of the WHO FCTC, the Philippine delegation made statements that promoted the interest of the tobacco industries,  including those of vapor products and heated tobacco products, describing them as “salutary” and “source of good”. The statement also praised the tobacco industry for their efforts in self-regulation and developing novel, nonetheless still harmful alternatives.

The DOH maintained that there is no good in tobacco. The DOH added that giving misleading information that dilutes the risks of tobacco products and undue recognition to tobacco industries, including those of vapor products and heated tobacco products, is harmful. The statements made by the Philippine delegation negate the very principles of the WHO FCTC and undermine the progress the Philippines has made to curb tobacco use.

Moreover, the DOH said that praising the tobacco industry for its importance in public health funding is misleading and urged that we must have a whole-of-government approach in regulating the marketing and sale of products that are harmful both to the health and economy of the Filipino people.  In 2011, the estimated cost of tobacco-related diseases was Php 177 billion annually, which was about seven times higher than the total collected taxes from tobacco products in 2011 amounting to Php 25.9 billion.

Since 2016, the Tobacco Industry Interference Index of the Philippines worsened, from 38 in 2016 to 57 in 2020. The Tobacco Industry Interference Index determines the efforts made by governments to address tobacco industry interference. Continued tobacco industry interference diminishes our efforts in promoting public health and safeguarding the Filipinos from the harms of using and exposure to tobacco products. The DOH supports the call of COP9 to maximize transparency of the delegation and participants to safeguard the WHO FCTC from the tobacco industry, in strict observance of Article 5.3 of the treaty.

The DOH enjoins the Filipino people, public health advocates, and champions of tobacco prevention and control to remain vigilant of the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industries and to stay united in our goal of protecting the integrity of public health policies now more than ever.

The 9th Session of the COP to WHO FCTC is currently being held virtually at Geneva, Switzerland until November 13, 2021.