Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC to Philip Morris: Education Alone Will Not Curb Youth Smoking

Higher cost of cigarettes is the immediate deterrent. “Kapag mahal, ang sigarilyo, mas mapipigilan sa pagyoyosi ang kabataang Pilipino.”

This was stressed by the National Youth Commission (NYC) today in reaction to the claims of Chita Herce, spokesperson of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation Inc. (PMFTC), the top tobacco manufacturer in the country, that education and not additional taxes will prevent young people from smoking.

Education is vital in curbing youth smoking but it must be reinforced by  mechanisms that will make tobacco inaccessible, NYC Chairperson Leon Flores said. For the past years, the dangers of tobacco smoking have been taught in schools and have been part of wellness campaigns. However, the percentage of youth smokers continues to increase despite the education drive as well as the advertisement ban on tobacco products.

According to the 2007 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), 69.6% young people had been taught in class during the past year about the dangers of smoking.  Moreover, 69.3% had been taught in class the effects of tobacco use. These numbers did not have any effect in decreasing smoking prevalence among the youth. In 2011, already 2 out of 5 teens aged 13-15 smoked.

The Philippines has some of the cheapest cigarettes in Asia and one of the cheapest cigarettes in the world. Parallel to these data are the alarming smoking rates in the country: The Philippines ranks 9th in the adult male population and 16th in the adult female smoking population in the world.

NYC Commissioner Perci Cendaña said that raising taxes right now is the most viable option to decrease the number of young smokers. “Kapag nagtaas ng presyo ang sigarilyo, maraming kabataan ang hindi na maninigarilyo.” The recent study by the University of the Philippines Communication Research Society with the support of Health Justice supports this claim. According to it, that 60% of the sample population will quit smoking if cigarettes will be priced at 5 pesos per stick.

NYC as the voice and advocate of the youth calls on the immediate passage of House Bill 5727 that will restructure the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol. The Commission firmly stands that we must maximize all means to protect the health and wellness of our nation’s youth.(NYC Press release)