iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines goes to Albay

2019 poll candidates challenged to support stricter tobacco control legislation

100% smoke-free policy, higher taxes on cigarettes, regulation of e-cigarettes, and higher minimum age for buying and using cigarettes.

National and local candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections vowed to support the call of advocates for stricter tobacco control legislation during a voters’ education forum called iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines held in Bicol College in Daraga, Albay.

Launched by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) in time for the campaign season, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign aims to mainstream tobacco control as a right-to-health issue and call on both voters and candidates to include health among the primary considerations in the upcoming elections.

During the forum in Albay, Dr. Evy Sarmiento of the Department of Health-Region V discussed the burden of tobacco in the Philippines and in the Bicol Region, while Rep. Joey Salceda discussed local smoke-free policy, and advocates, including Action for Economic Reforms executive director Men Sta. Ana and Smoke-free Action Network founder Ms. Rose Olarte, talked about why tobacco control should be part of the national conversation during the election season.

“There is an overwhelming support for stricter tobacco control policies,” says PLCPD Advocacy Manager Au Quilala. During the campaign launch held in Manila in February, PLCPD and Pulse Asia presented the results of the nationwide survey conducted from January 26 to 31, 2019, which reveal that nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited, and nine and out 10 adult Filipinos also agree to raising the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old.

“The results of this survey show that Filipinos, smokers and non-smokers alike, are aware of the dangers of using tobacco. The results are also an indication that it is time to introduce and discuss policy reforms that will make our tobacco control laws more health-oriented. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Quilala added.

The iChange campaign calls on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), specifically to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and remove the tobacco industry from the Interagency Committee-Tobacco. Other reforms supported by advocates are the proposed increase in the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 and banning or regulation of electronic cigarettes or vapes.

The iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign features a series of voters’ education forums and media events in vote-rich provinces in the Philippines, including Albay, Laguna, Iloilo, and Cebu. It also solicits commitments of candidates to support stricter tobacco control policies.