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Caravan’s engaging events across 13 Filipino cities draw people to support the Sin Tax and increasing tobacco taxes

(November 23, 2017, Baguio City, the Philippines and New York, USA) – With potential increases in the Philippines’ successful Sin Tax in the balance, Vital Strategies has joined other anti-tobacco advocates in launching a “Smoke-free Caravan” (“Caravan”) that is rallying supporters across 13 Philippine cities and underscoring the positive impact higher tobacco taxes will have on public health and the country’s economy.

“The Philippines’ Sin Taxes Law has helped to reduce smoking prevalence and extended access to health care to millions of citizens, but youth and adult smoking rates remain worryingly high,” said José Luis Castro, Vital Strategies’ President and CEO. “Extending the Sin Tax is win-win. It will help to combat those stubborn smoking rates and benefit the economy. With the Senate debating further increases in tobacco taxes and whether to retain the new single tax rate on tobacco products, there is no better time for the Philippines’ legislators to hear from the public. The “Caravan” will ensure that the voices of everyday people are heard over the voices of vested interests such as the tobacco industry. We hope policy makers will listen.”

The “Caravan” officially launched today at an event in Baguio City. A group of tobacco control experts and advocates is crossing the Philippines, joining with local advocates in 13 cities to run activities that help smokers to quit and allow participants to demonstrate their support for the Sin Tax and increasing tobacco taxes in-person and on social media. Today’s kick-off event includes a panel discussion that features Vital Strategies experts Kaloi Garcia, Communication Manager (Philippines) and Enrico Aditjondro, Associate Director (Southeast Asia), both from the organization’s Policy, Advocacy and Communication division.

Running through December 2017, each city will host different events with a unique and local flavor.  These range from mural competitions, to dance and fitness sessions, panel discussions, media events, advocacy workshops, and concerts. In some larger cities, radio ads will promote “Caravan” events. The campaign is also being promoted on social media at and Fillipinos are sharing images and comments inspired by the campaign using the hashtag #SmokeFreePH.

The primary goal of the campaign is to show country-wide public support for higher tobacco taxes that increase automatically over time. This will reduce the affordability of cigarettes now and in future years, which is proven to reduce smoking prevalence, especially among youth. The need for this policy is driven by welcome economic growth in the Philippines. The impact of a Sin Tax that does not increase is blunted because cigarettes become more affordable as incomes increase but the price of cigarettes remains the same.

The Caravan will visit Baguio City, Balanga in Bataan, Quezon City, San Pedro in the Province of Laguna, Pandan in the Province of Antique, Buruanga, Ibajay and Kalibo in the Province of Aklan, Roxas City in the Province of Capiz, Iloilo City, Oroquieta City, and General Santos City. The campaign ends with an event in Davao City. For more details, please visit

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. This costs 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, 2015), 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.


Note to Editors

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. 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 or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact or +63 998 563 1448 (Kaloi Garcia).