June 17, 2024

Addressing tobacco use is not only a job of the health sector, but also needs political will of local government officials and the barangays.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Benhur Abalos, Jr. emphasized this during his talk in the 8th Asia Pacific Smoke-free Meeting of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) in Baguio recently.
Abalos said in the Philippines, over 17.3 million people are smokers, which makes it one of 15 countries in the world with heavy burden of tobacco-related ill health. 
Annually, around 87,600 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases that translate to 240 premature and preventable deaths each day.
“What is even more alarming behind these figures is the fact that the number of smokers and deaths due to tobacco includes teenagers. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in the Philippines in 2019, 12.5 percent of 13 to 15 years old use tobacco while 14.1 percent use e-cigarettes. This is why we recognize that tobacco control is not only a public health priority but also a key development issue that affects overall quality of life and well-being, especially of our children,” Abalos said.
He  called on LGUs  to be proactive in the campaign for a smoke-free environment.
He added 722 LGUs have issued smoke-free policies, of which, 101 have included e-cigarettes/vaping in the prohibition in declaring smoke-free places.
“We are calling on other LGUs to catch up and take a firm action against violators who endanger and neglect the right of every citizen to breathe clean air. Implement holistic tobacco control programs in your respective localities that aim to educate people, particularly the youth sector to reduce the demand for tobacco products,” Abalos said.
“The administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. believes in the value of our local public officials, especially in our campaign to protect public health. Through your interaction with the public on a more personal and grass-roots level, you are in a very unique position to feel the pulse of the public and are better-positioned to respond to their immediate needs.”
Department of Health Usec. Beverly Ho shared the national policy on the prevention and control on the use of tobacco products, vape, other tobacco products, and other novel and emerging similar products which set the strategic direction and harmonized guidance for the DOH.
The  summit, which adopted the theme, “Rising amidst the challenges: Strengthening and sustaining smoke-free implementation”,  was attended by Southeast Asia’s multi-sectoral non-government alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the World Health Organization Framework. – Carlito Dar