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Philippines’ Dramatic Drop in Tobacco Use Shows Tobacco Control Efforts Are Working and Must Remain a Priority

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mar. 20 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The government of the Philippines today reported that adult tobacco use has dropped by nearly 20 percent – from 29.7 percent in 2009 to 23.8 percent in 2015. The dramatic decline, highlighted in the Philippines’ second Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), confirms that strong measures the government has taken to prevent and reduce tobacco use are working.

Since the first GATS was conducted in 2009, the Philippines has taken decisive steps to address the country’s high rates of tobacco use. These steps include the 2012 sin tax law, which requires steady increases in excise taxes on tobacco. The Philippines has also mandated cutting-edge graphic warnings on tobacco products featuring real victims of tobacco-related diseases.

The life-saving policies implemented in the Philippines have helped the country begin to fulfill its obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) – the world’s first global public health treaty – which requires its 180 ratifying countries to implement evidence-based policies to reduce tobacco use. These proven policies like smoke-free public places, restrictions on tobacco advertising, warning labels on tobacco products and increased tobacco taxes drastically improve public health.

It has been widely reported that the Philippines will soon issue a nationwide smoke-free policy to build on the significant progress it has already made.  According to the GATS report, more than 97 percent of the country’s residents agree that there should be a complete ban on smoking in public places and indoor workplaces.

In addition to advancing a national smoke-free policy, the Philippines must continue to implement other evidence-based measures to reduce tobacco use. This includes enacting further increases in tobacco taxes, the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use.

While the survey highlights the tremendous progress the Philippines’ has made, the government must not waiver in its commitment to tackling the enormous toll of tobacco use. According to the survey, nearly one in four Filipinos still reported using tobacco products and more than 86 percent of adults reported exposure to deadly secondhand smoke at bars and nightclubs. Smoking is conservatively estimated to kill 73,000 Filipinos each year.

The message from the Philippines’ new survey is clear: implementing proven tobacco control policies and fulfilling the legal obligations of the FCTC work to reduce tobacco use and save lives. With sustained commitment from the Philippines and countries around the world, these measures can help curb a global epidemic projected to kill one billion people this century.