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March 8, 2017

100% Smoke-Free Executive Order Will Save Lives

(March 8th, 2017, Manila, the Philippines and New York, USA): Global health non-profit organization Vital Strategies today encourages the Philippines’ government to sign an Executive Order (EO) that implements a 100% national smokefree policy, in line with scientific evidence.

“Second-hand smoke (SHS) is deadly, killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year and causing disease and suffering among many more, ranging from strokes and heart attacks to cancers and asthma. Filipinos would have reason to celebrate if the country takes the critical step to protect everyone in public places from this hazard,” said Vital Strategies’ President and CEO José Luis Castro.

The benefits of a comprehensive policy are significant, continues Mr Castro: “The science is clear: even brief exposure to SHS can cause immediate harm and designated smoking rooms and ventilation systems do not provide effective protection to the public and workers. The tobacco industry’s own research acknowledges this. In addition, the harm caused by second-hand smoke is the same from the smallest village to the largest cities. Filipinos everywhere deserve the same, gold standard levels of protection as that already successfully implemented in cities like Davao. Making all public places smoke-free – with no exceptions – and properly enforcing that law means that all citizens are protected. As well as helping non-smokers, it helps to encourage current smokers to cut down and quit and deters people from initiating smoking. This is what the tobacco industry fears.

“We hope that the eventual language of the EO respects the rights and the health of the millions of non-smokers who make up the majority of the population, and is 100 percent compliant with the global public health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which the Philippines has committed to implement. The next step is a strong commitment to enforcement. With local city examples to build upon, we know that success is within reach. In cities like Davao and abroad, we see that 100 percent smoke-free policies are not harmful to business and that public health and economic opportunity go hand in hand.  Vital Strategies looks forward to continuing to work with government to draw upon tobacco control best practices and curb the number 1 preventable killer of Filipinos – tobacco use.”

The new national policy extends the country’s existing law (Republic Act 9211) and could build upon the good work already undertaken in implementing comprehensive smoke-free laws in cities around the country. This includes Davao City, where now- President Rodrigo Duterte introduced and enforced comprehensive smoke-free policies when he was Mayor.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) and this mostly invisible killer takes a terrible toll on the health of people in the Philippines. In addition to the 3,000 non-smoking adult Filipinos who die every year of lung cancer as a result of inhaling SHS, many others suffer or die from SHS-related stroke, laryngeal cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and other conditions.

In women, SHS has reproductive effects and is linked to breast cancer and pre-term delivery. Among babies and children, SHS exposure can cause respiratory illness, middle ear disease, sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight in babies. Studies also have found links with SHS exposure and learning disabilities. Laboratory tests reveal that the harmful effects of exposure to SHS in children may even be vastly underestimated.

Vital Strategies has previously supported mass media campaigns in the Philippines, such as “Cigarettes are Eating You Alive” and “Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,” to warn people about the harms of tobacco and show why it’s vital to protect others – especially children – from the harms of second-hand smoke.

Note to Editors

The Burden of Tobacco Use in the Philippines

The Department of Health (DOH) has identified tobacco as the primary risk factor in the Philippines for a range of non-communicable diseases. Health harms caused by tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke cost the Philippines’ economy more than USD3.95 billion (Php188 billion) (Dans et al., 2012) in health care costs and productivity losses. 

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the Philippines (GATS), more than 17 million adult Filipinos smoke cigarettes. Almost half of adult males and 9 percent (2.8 million) of adult females are current smokers. Moreover, 23 percent of Filipino adults – 38 percent of men and 7 percent of women – are daily tobacco smokers.

The Tobacco Atlas notes that tobacco causes 19.6 percent of adult male deaths and 9.4 percent of adult female deaths – higher than the average in other middle-income countries. It is estimated that more than 71,850 Filipinos – eight people every hour – are killed by tobacco-related diseases every year. 

The Philippine Cancer Society estimates that around 3,000 non-smoking adult Filipinos die every year of lung cancer as a result of inhaling second-hand smoke.

The Philippines 2011 Global Youth Tobacco Survey found that more than two in five 13-15 year olds are exposed to SHS at home and nearly three in five are exposed to SHS outside the home. According to The Tobacco Atlas, SHS increases the risks of contracting lung cancer by 30 percent (small cell lung cancer by 300 percent) and coronary heart disease by 25 percent. Exposure to SHS killed more than 600,000 non-smokers globally in 2010.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org

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