By Leilani S. Junio
MANILA, March 22 (PNA) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has lauded the country’s leadership in promoting significant interventions leading to a dramatic decline in the number of smokers from 2009 to 2015.
“The decrease in tobacco use that we’ve seen here in the Philippines for the last years is truly remarkable, also from a global perspective,” WHO country representative, Dr. Gundo Weiler, has said.
Weiler was referring to the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report, which showed a 1.1 million drop in the number of smokers in the country from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million in 2015.
The GATS Survey is used to monitor adult tobacco use and track key tobacco control indicators across countries. In the Philippines, the survey was conducted in collaboration with the Philippine Statistics Authority, with technical assistance provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO, among others. The analysis and writing of the report was funded by the Department of Health.
Weiler noted that with the nearly 20 percent reduction in the number of smokers, the Philippines has achieved the level of international practices.
“You see such a dramatic change. Change can only be brought about based on a very strong political commitment,” the WHO official said in an interview.
Weiler said the current administration’s sound leadership, as demonstrated by President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City when he was still mayor, and the long-time advocacy of Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial, has contributed a lot to the reduction.
He also cited the other factors that led to the reduction, among them the implementation of the Tobacco Reform Law in 2012 or the “anti-cancer tax” as stipulated in Republic Act 10351; the implementation of the Graphic Health Warning in cigarette packs; and the creation of anti-smoking ordinances by local governments.
Weiler expressed hope that these interventions would be further strengthened by the much-awaited Executive Order on a smoke-free Philippines that is expected to be signed by the President soon.
Noting that some 87,000 Filipinos die of smoking-related illnesses every year, he said these interventions are needed to protect the youth and children, from whom would come the next generation of smokers.
“While this is truly a great achievement, we need to redouble our efforts and intensify the interventions that have proven to be effective,” he said.
He assured that the WHO will continue to support the Philippine government to reduce the morbidity and mortality linked to tobacco use among Filipinos.