Smoking costs P148b a year due to illness, death

Published by rudy Date posted on May 13, 2011

CIGARETTE smoking is costing the Philippines P148 billion a year in economic losses due to illness and death,” the Health Department said Thursday.

And tobacco use kills 87,600 Filipinos annually, says Asuncion Anden, director of the department’s National Center for Health, citing the department’s latest report on tobacco use in the Philippines in partnership with the World Health Organization.

The study, The Joint Report of WHO and the Government of the Philippines Assessing National Capacity for Implementing Tobacco Control, says progress has been made in curbing tobacco use in the country, but it recommends changes in some key areas that involve raising the taxes on tobacco, investing in smoke-free environments, putting graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, and starting hard-hitting mass media campaigns against tobacco use and for helping smokers quit.

The cheap cost of cigarettes make them very accessible even to the young, the report says. “Increasing taxes would both reduce the number of smokers and increase the amount of money available for public health programs.”

In an earlier interview with the Manila Standard, WHO country representative to the Philippines Soe Nyunt-U said sin taxes particularly on tobacco could be the “best source” of revenues for public health financing programs.

He says the cigarettes sold in the Philippines are cheaper than those sold in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore as a result of the low tobacco taxes here, and though increasing those taxes will not stop tobacco use, it will definitely reduce smoking among the young.

The Health Department’s study says more and more local government units are making great strides in protecting people from second-hand smoke, but there is not enough technical and financial report to clamp down in more places.

The report also says the text warnings on cigarette packs do not scare off smokers. It cites the findings of the Global Audit Tobacco Survey in the country that showed only 38 percent of the smokers who recalled seeing those warnings thought about quitting.

The report urges the Health Department to develop and air at least four campaigns a year to change the prevailing acceptability of tobacco use in the Philippines. It says mass media campaigns that warn people about the harmful effects of smoking have proven effective in prompting smokers to try quitting and non-smokers not to take up the habit.

“Even though most smokers quit on their own, people that try to quit are more likely to accomplish their goal if they have support,” the report says. –Macon Ramos-Araneta, Manila Standard Today

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