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Anti-Tobacco Campaign in the Philippines Highlights Health Harms of Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(August 6th, 2015, Manila, Philippines and New York, USA) The Department of Health (DOH) together with New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) and World Lung Foundation (WLF) today launches a powerful national anti-tobacco campaign that highlights the dangers of smoking to adults and the health harms caused to children and non-smokers through exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS). The campaign, called “Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive,” starts airing on national television channels from August 15. It is designed to encourage quitting and support for the Philippines’ smoke-free laws, and to support the timely implementation of graphic health warnings on tobacco packs by March 2016. 

The campaign features two public service announcements (PSAs). One called “Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive” graphically shows that smoking causes damage to nearly every vital organ and tissue of the body, and the other, called “Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,” shows the harms of SHS to children and non-smokers. Both announcements incorporate graphic health warning images to be implemented on tobacco packs showing stroke, oral cancer, neck cancer, and throat cancer in smokers and laryngeal cancer, stroke, and low birth weight in babies resulting from SHS exposure.


Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive

Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive

“We congratulate the Department of Health and the New Vois Association of the Philippines on the launch of this new campaign. Research has shown that national mass media communication campaign is one of the most effective means of raising awareness of the real health harms of tobacco and second-hand smoke, deterring youth from initiating tobacco use, urging smokers to comply with smoke-free laws and encouraging smokers to stop smoking. We are delighted to have supported the design and implementation of this campaign in the knowledge that it will benefit the health of Filipinos and help the Philippines achieve health-related development goals in the future,” Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation commented.

According to Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin, Filipinos need to be more aware of the harms caused by second-hand smoke, as well as the many respiratory and chronic diseases caused by smoking. In addition, tobacco has been identified as the primary risk factor in the Philippines for a range of non-communicable diseases. These lead to massive health care costs and productivity losses for our nation – smoking cost our economy more than Php188 billion pesos (Dans et al., 2012). To reduce tobacco use, we must implement and support a wide range of tobacco control policies, including graphic warnings on tobacco packs and increased tobacco prices that encourage more Filipinos to cut down and quit.   

“Tobacco continues to cause too much premature death and disease among adults and children in the Philippines. Ten people die every hour due to smoking related diseases in the Philippines.  Mass media campaign can help to raise awareness of the harms of tobacco and effect behavior change at population level. This increases the effectiveness of the Graphic Warnings on tobacco packs soon to be introduced in the country,” said NVAP Founder and President, Engr. Emer Rojas.

The Tobacco Atlas notes that 40 percent of men and 8.2 percent of women in the Philippines smoke tobacco. Tobacco is the cause of 19.6 percent of adult male deaths and 9.4 percent of adult female deaths – higher than the average in other middle-income countries. More than 71,850 Filipinos are killed by tobacco-related diseases every year. 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. The causes of death include chemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, asthma, and lung cancers. The Philippine Cancer Society estimates that around 3,000 non-smoking adult Filipinos die of lung cancer as a result of breathing SHS each year.

“With these facts, it is estimated that 10 Filipinos are dying every hour due to diseases from tobacco consumption. Students should know the harmful effects of smoking and there are no benefits in starting the habit. They should BE SMART and NEVER START smoking,” Garin concluded.

The PSAs and stills and transcripts from the PSAs are available upon request.

Research has shown that mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to encourage people to stop using tobacco. Hard-hitting campaigns can compel tobacco users to quit, increase knowledge of the health risks of tobacco use, and promote behavior change in both smokers and non-smokers. It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.