Graphic health warnings pushed anew to lessen smoking rate

‘Sin tax is not enough’

Raising taxes alone is not enough to alleviate cigarette consumption in the country, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) President Emer Rojas said in a statement.

Recognizing the effect of the sin tax law passed in 2013, Rojas noted that the decline in smoking rate was only because of smokers shifting to a cheaper brand of cigarette and not completely quitting from doing the habit.

With this, he said NVAP supports the passage of requiring graphic health warnings in cigarette packs, which shall help in the decrease of cigarette smoking like what other countries have done.

“In almost all countries that have very strong tobacco control laws, they were able to see significant changes in cigarette consumption and change in smokers’ behavior by increasing taxes and requiring graphic health warnings,” said Rojas.

He cited that Australia replaced their text-only warnings to graphic health warnings on cigarette labels, prompting a significant decline in tobacco usage. A study also revealed that smokers quitted upon seeing the graphic health warnings.

A former smoker and laryngeal cancer survivor himself, Rojas said that graphic health warnings deliver a “very emotional message” to cigarette users.

While advertisements picture smoking as cool, he said graphic health warnings tells the otherwise—the health risks that one may have if he did not quit smoking.

Rojas also added that approximately 17.3 million Filipinos are smokers, making the Philippines land in the second highest number tobacco consumers in Southeast Asia next to Indonesia.

There are 94 percent of adults who believe the smoking may trigger serious health conditions, the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) revealed. Within the 30 days of study, smokers had noticed the warnings in cigarette packs.

However, Rojas said that despite these findings, the smoking population of the country is still notably high. He said that if the houses of Congress would consider making graphic health warnings as a law aside from the sin tax law, tobacco control can be manageable.

Rojas also called on legislators to show the same enthusiasm in pushing for the policy on graphic health warnings like what they have shown during sin tax debates.

“We cannot stand idle when we know that 10 Filipinos die every hour because we are failing to put into place measures that will encourage them to quit smoking,” Rojas concluded. Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos

VitalSigns Issue 62 Vol. 3, April 1-30, 2014