The Tobacco Epidemic
17.3 million adults (28% of the population) use tobacco in the Philippines. Men (48%) have higher rates of smoking than women (9%). 55% of youth (ages 13-15) and 40% of adults are exposed to second-hand smoke in their homes.
As a consequence, tobacco kills approximately 87,600 Filipinos per year (240 deaths every day); one third of them are men in the most productive age of their lives. The treatment of tobacco-related illnesses costs the Philippines $858 million USD each year.
Policies in place
The Philippines became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005.
There are two main pieces of tobacco control legislation: the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9211), an omnibus tobacco control law, and the Inter-Agency Tobacco-Committee issued Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003. These national laws:
- Prohibit smoking in enumerated indoor places and work places, such as healthcare and educational institutions. Smoking is permitted in designated areas of other public places and workplaces, including bars and nightclubs. Public land transportation vehicles and terminals are smokefree.
- Bans some advertising and promotional activity, but allows points of sale promotion and free distribution of tobacco products, as well as other promotional activities
- Require a rotating text-only health warning covering 30% of the front of the package. Starting in late 2015, 50% graphic health warnings are required on the front and back of packaging; a ban on misleading descriptors will also come into effect.
- Allow sub-national regulations that are stricter than the national law.
The Union's achievements
The Union has been working with Philippines Department of Health since July 2010 to develop and promote legislation and policies that comply with the Philippines' commitments under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, including Article 6 on implementing tax and price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco.
In 2013, a significant policy milestone was achieved when the President signed the Sin Tax reform bill into law - Republic Act No. 10351 (RA 10351). The Sin Tax law is a 'double win' for health in the Philippines as the new tax on tobacco has the net effect of raising the consumer price of cigarettes (and hence predicted impact on smoking rates) as well as raising funds for a universal health care system for the poor. This sin tax came into force on 1 January 2013, and was initially projected to raise P33.96 billion (approx. USD $761M) during the first year of implementation of taxes on tobacco and alcohol. This has been exceeded, and in early 2014, the Secretary of Health, announced the Department of Health will receive P48.3 billion (USD 1.08 M) in additional funds generated.
The Union helped develop the 12 GHW templates which were officially approved by the Secretary of Health on October 2014. The visuals depict a range of health consequences of tobacco use, and are particularly powerful due to their portrayal of 'real life' tobacco victims from the Philippines. Innovative side panels include additional messages about the poisons contained in cigarettes and the back of pack template will contain a website address where smokers can obtain information about quitting. The GHWs come into full effect 20 months from the signing of the templates.
Local Government Smoke-Free Ordinances continue to be a critical tobacco control strategy in the Philippines as these are able to achieve more comprehensive measures than those prescribed by the national laws. Several Union grantees have been involved in supporting the development and enforcement of local government smoke-free ordinances, including Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), FCAP in a series of regional provinces, and via the Civil Service Commission and its effort to raise awareness of and compliance with policy to exclude tobacco industry interference.