Electorate urged to vote for health advocates, anti-tobacco supporters

BAGUIO CITY — Tobacco control and health advocates urge electorate to select candidates in the upcoming May 13, 2019 election who will push for stricter tobacco control legislation.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) with its partners from the government and non-government organizations made the call during the Cordillera leg of the “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines” campaign here.
PLCPD Advocacy Manager Au Quilala said the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign aims to mainstream tobacco control as a right-to-health issue and calls on both voters and candidates to include health among the primary considerations in the upcoming elections.
It also calls on the candidates to support moves to amend the tobacco regulation law, specifically to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned and to raise the minimum age for people allowed to buy and use cigarettes from 18 to 25 years.
“We hope that we all vote wisely thinking about our daily lives, thinking of our health. Together with these proposals, we hope that we will consider the candidates who put primary considerations about our health,” Quilala said.
PLCPD presented a nationwide survey which Pulse Asia conducted from January 26 to 31, 2019 that showed nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited. Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos also agree to raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old.
In another survey conducted by Pulse Asia from March 23 to 27, 2019, 75% or three out of four adult Filipinos said they are in favor of increasing taxes on cigarettes. Also, seven out of 10 adult Filipinos would support candidates who are in favor of legislative measures to increase taxes on cigarettes.
“The results of the surveys show that Filipinos, smokers and non-smokers alike, are aware of the dangers of using tobacco. The results are also an indication that policymakers who support stricter tobacco control policies including increase in taxes on cigarettes have nothing to fear. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our legislators and government officials to act,” Quilala added.
“Panawagan po namin sa mga legislators at candidates, hindi po dapat kayo matakot na sumuporta sa mga proposals making the tobacco control policies stricter since the survey shows that there are high numbers of people supporting candidates that have health advocacies and who support tobacco control measures,” Quilala enjoined.
Health Justice legal consultant lawyer Ben Nisperos highlighted current efforts to amend Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, and called on policymakers to support health-oriented amendments to ban electronic cigarettes, and to increase the taxes on cigarettes.
Current proposals to strengthen tobacco control policies in the country include the expansion of smoke-free environments, removal of the tobacco industry in the Interagency Committee-Tobacco, and raising the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25. There are also proposals to ban or strictly regulate e-cigarettes which studies show is not a safer alternative to cigarettes.
Dr. Donna Tubera-Panes of the Baguio City Health Office, meanwhile, shared good practices in tobacco control in Baguio City, which has been recognized as among the cities with policies compliant with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the President’s Executive Order No. 26 on smoke-free environments particularly in public and enclosed spaces.
Because of the strict implementation of the Smoke-free Baguio City Ordinance of 2017, the city has recorded the lowest rate of smoking in seven years at 17% based on results of the recent Baguio City Adult Tobacco Survey.
Tubera reiterated the call for voters to support the candidates who will support stricter smoke-free and tobacco-free policies in the city. **JDP/RMC –PIA CAR & UCU Interns

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