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WHO cites PH drive on tobacco addiction

WHILE the Philippines has won a great deal of world attention for its campaign against drugs, much of it critical due to the big number of deaths connected with it, another campaign against another form of addiction has won the plaudits of the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the national government’s campaign against tobacco addiction.

For several years now, there has been a steady decease in tobacco use in the Philippines, WHO country representative Dr. Gundo Weiler said. In the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), the number of smokers in the country was found to have dropped by 1.1 million people – from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million in 2015.

The WHO official lauded the political will that Philippine officials have displayed over the years in the effort to stop the rise in tobacco addiction in the country. He cited the enactment of Republic Act No. 10351, the Tobacco Reform Law of 2012, raising the tax on cigarette products and requiring the printing of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. Local governments all over the country responded with their own restrictions on cigarette sales and on smoking in public buildings.

RA 10351, also known as the Sin Tax Law, provided for a two-tier tax rate from 2013 to 2016. Congress is now considering a bill to replace RA 10351 and Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial expressed the DoH stand that instead of reviving the two-tier tax system for expensive and less expensive brands, the new law should just increase the tax to make all cigarettes less affordable.

Apart from the battle in the halls of Congress, the campaign against tobacco addiction is being waged by President Duterte who has already announced that he will soon issue an executive order further restricting public smoking in the country.

For all these efforts, the World Health Organization lauded the Philippines. The country’s efforts have already reduced the number of smokers by 20 percent in last seven years but about 87,000 Filipinos still die of smoking-related illnesses, notably lung cancer, every year. WHO will continue to support the Philippine government in this campaign, Dr. Weiler declared.