Filipinos will benefit from Smoke-Free Executive Order

May 18, 2017

(May 19th, 2017, Manila, the Philippines and New York, USA): Vital Strategies today welcomed the news that the Philippines’ government has signed an Executive Order (EO) that implements a national smokefree policy; concerns remain that it includes a provision for designated smoking areas (DSAs), meaning that it does not confirm to best practice as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which the Philippines is a signatory.

“The science is clear: even brief exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) can cause immediate harm. The dangers are significant, ranging from strokes and heart attacks to cancers and asthma. So Filipinos in villages, towns and cities previously lacking a smokefree law have reason to be pleased that they will now be offered some protection, although this is not as strong as the protection currently enjoyed by citizens of cities like Davao and Iloilo City, where a fully comprehensive smokefree policy is in place,” said Vital Strategies’ President and CEO José Luis Castro.

“No one should be forced to breathe SHS. Unfortunately, designated smoking areas reduce the effectiveness of smokefree laws,” continued Castro. “Even the tobacco industry’s own research confirms that invisible cigarette smoke spreads easily through buildings with DSAs, via ventilation systems and door openings. In addition, no one should have to suffer the toxic impacts of SHS because of their job. As implementation of the EO is considered, we urge government to include rules and regulations that protect workers - such as servers or cleaners - from working in enclosed DSAs. Government has the opportunity to ensure this. We hope that the final IRR may better reflect the policy adopted by Davao or Iloilo City, but in the meantime the priority must be strong enforcement of the EO, to make sure that people in smokefree areas are protected from SHS.”

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. 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, Philippines, 2015, 15.9 million adult Filipinos smoke cigarettes. Tobacco use prevalence among adults was 23.8%, including 41.9 percent of adult males and 5.8 percent of adult females. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of smokers who are interested in quitting (76.7 percent of smokers) or who have made a quit attempt (52.2 percent of 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