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DOH: Pinoys quit smoking due to high cigarette cost

MANILA, Philippines - Over a million Filipinos have chosen to quit smoking primarily due to the high cost of tobacco products, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said three out of four smokers nationwide have also expressed their desire to stop.

She cited a Global Adult Tobacco Survey report that showed more than a million Filipinos have dropped the habit over a period of six years.

“From 17 million in 2009, the number of smokers dropped to 15.9 million in 2015. The figure represents a relative reduction of close to 20 percent of smokers or in simpler terms, one million Filipinos have quit tobacco use, the biggest decline we have seen in Philippine history,” Ubial said in a press conference.

“This significant reduction in tobacco use translates to a million Filipinos at lower risk for cancer, heart disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” the secretary added.

Ubial attributed the decline to tax measures that led to higher cost of tobacco products and other anti-smoking measures like the graphic health warnings and local ordinances banning smoking in a number of communities.

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Even given the positive outlook, she still worries over the high rate of exposure to smoking in bars and nightclubs – a reality that poses a threat to non-smokers.

“Exposure to smoking in bars and nightclubs is as high as 86.3 percent and in restaurants at 33.6 percent,” Ubial said as she encouraged families not to patronize establishments that allow indoor smoking to protect their loved ones.

To further gain on the notable reduction, the DOH continues to adopt various strategies like the issuance of an executive order prohibiting smoking in public places nationwide.

Ubial hopes President Duterte will sign the executive order declaring a smoke-free Philippines after returning from his trips to Myanmar and Thailand this week.

She is optimistic that the implementation of a signed order would help reduce the 87,000 annual deaths blamed on smoking among Filipinos, pointing out that while taxes imposed on tobacco products since 2013 have made cigarettes less affordable, many continue to buy it.

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