Group calls for stricter tobacco control policies

MANILA -- A health advocacy group is pushing for stronger public health policies on tobacco control.

As signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, we have to have policies on tobacco control, but there are attempts or strategies that the tobacco industry use to delay the passage of policies or rush them to avoid proper deliberation, Health Justice Philippines managing director Jak Sarita told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview on Friday.

Health Justice PH is an advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and public health promotion.

It launched on Friday the Tobacco Industry Interference Index Philippine Report 2018, which revealed how tobacco companies may participate and exert influence in public health policy development and implementation.

The importance of activities like these, we could measure the kind and level of interference by the tobacco industries, which affect the achievement of the objectives of policies to protect public health, Sarita said.

While President Rodrigo Duterte had issued Executive Order No. 26 on the establishment of smoke-free environments in public and enclosed spaces, the report showed that there are stricter policies that must be passed. These include the implementation of higher taxes on tobacco, ban on tobacco advertisements, and removal of the tobacco industry in policy implementation. The report also recommended that the government practices proper reporting and transparency in providing information about its meetings and interactions with the tobacco industry.

The report also recognized the government's success in prohibiting government agencies from receiving donation from the tobacco industry and from making unnecessary interactions with it.

It said though that such action gives the tobacco industry the opportunity to use the private sector to conduct and publicize its corporate social responsibility activities.

Sarita told PNA that this report can teach stakeholders how to counter the tobacco industry's interference to build an environment of a well-informed public, who could actively participate in campaigns on tobacco control and public health promotion.

Strong political will of local government unit (LGU) officials is needed, like Davao. Davao is really the trailblazer in starting the advocacy. It has set the standard from which all other LGUs will eventually measure as to what is the full protection of a smoke-free environment in terms of policy and enforcement and buy-in of people in Davao, he said.

To date, there have been bills drafted to increase the excise tax on tobacco products. These are Senate Bill Nos. 1599 by Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao and 1605 by Senator JV Ejercito. Both bills aim to use the tobacco tax for funding the universal health care program.(PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency