Intensified drive against smoking urged

SENATOR Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian has stressed the need to step up the campaign on the adverse effects of continued use of cigarette and tobacco products, especially among the youth, to lessen the risk of COVID-19 infection.

In a scientific brief, the World Health Organization (WHO) said available evidence suggests an association between smoking and increased severity of disease and death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The WHO also urged tobacco users to stop the use of these harmful products given the well-established harms they cause, including cancer.

During a webinar with student leaders, Gatchalian pointed out three important steps for a smoke-free Philippines: fight the heavy lobby from the tobacco industry, transition tobacco farmers to planting sustainable high-quality crops, and dissuade the youth from smoking.

He cited several global and national tobacco surveys in Southeast Asia, including the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), which revealed that the Philippines is second-highest in terms of cigarette smoking prevalence among young males aged 13-15. The same set of surveys revealed that cigarette smoking prevalence among young females in the same age group is highest in the Philippines compared to other Southeast Asian countries.

In the Philippines, cigarette prevalence is 17.6 percent for boys aged 13-15 and seven percent for girls of the same age, the GYTS revealed.

The same survey also showed that 50.6 percent of students noticed tobacco advertisements or promotions at points of sale, while 67.1 percent were taught in school about the dangers of tobacco in the past 12 months.

In terms of attitude towards smoking, 10.8 percent of students thought smoking tobacco helps people feel more comfortable at celebrations, parties, and social gatherings.

Young Filipinos, however, are heavily in favor of banning smoking in public places, with 93.1 percent of students in favor of a smoking ban in enclosed public places. Around 90.9 percent of students favor a smoking ban in outdoor public places.