100% National Smoke-free Policy Will Save Millions Of Lives

Monday, March 27, 2017


Tens of millions of Filipinos exposed to second-hand smoke daily
– especially women and children.

Global health non-profit organization Vital Strategies today encourages the Philippines’ government to sign an Executive Order (EO) that implements a 100% national smoke-free policy, in line with scientific evidence.

“Second-hand smoke (SHS) is deadly, killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year and causing disease and suffering among many more, ranging from strokes and heart attacks to cancers and asthma. Filipinos would have reason to celebrate if the country takes the critical step to protect everyone in public places from this hazard,” said Vital Strategies’ President and CEO José Luis Castro.

The benefits of a comprehensive policy are significant, continues Mr Castro: “The science is clear: even brief exposure to SHS can cause immediate harm and designated smoking rooms and ventilation systems do not provide effective protection to the public and workers. The tobacco industry’s own research acknowledges this. In addition, the harm caused by second-hand smoke is the same from the smallest village to the largest cities. Filipinos everywhere deserve the same, gold standard levels of protection as that already successfully implemented in cities like Davao. Making all public places smoke-free - with no exceptions - and properly enforcing that law means that all citizens are protected. As well as helping non-smokers, it helps to encourage current smokers to cut down and quit and deters people from initiating smoking. This is what the tobacco industry fears.

“We hope that the eventual language of the EO respects the rights and the health of the millions of non-smokers who make up the majority of the population, and is 100 percent compliant with the global public health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which the Philippines has committed to implement. The next step is a strong commitment to enforcement. With local city examples to build upon, we know that success is within reach. In cities like Davao and abroad, we see that 100 percent smoke-free policies are not harmful to business and that public health and economic opportunity go hand in hand. Vital Strategies looks forward to continuing to work with government to draw upon tobacco control best practices and curb the number 1 preventable killer of Filipinos – tobacco use.”

The new national policy extends the country’s existing law (Republic Act 9211) and could build upon the good work already undertaken in implementing comprehensive smoke-free laws in cities around the country. This includes Davao City, where now- President Rodrigo Duterte introduced and enforced comprehensive smoke-free policies when he was Mayor.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) and this mostly invisible killer takes a terrible toll on the health of people in the Philippines. In addition to the 3,000 non-smoking adult Filipinos who die every year of lung cancer as a result of inhaling SHS, many others suffer or die from SHS-related stroke, laryngeal cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and other conditions.

In women, SHS has reproductive effects and is linked to breast cancer and pre-term delivery. Among babies and children, SHS exposure can cause respiratory illness, middle ear disease, sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight in babies. Studies also have found links with SHS exposure and learning disabilities. Laboratory tests reveal that the harmful effects of exposure to SHS in children may even be vastly underestimated.

Vital Strategies has previously supported mass media campaigns in the Philippines, such as “Cigarettes are Eating You Alive” and “Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,” to warn people about the harms of tobacco and show why it’s vital to protect others – especially children - from the harms of second-hand smoke.


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