Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Event post: Cigarettes are Eating You Alive Campaign at Manila Diamond Hotel (August 6, 2015) #SmokeFreePh

I was again invited by Ms. Millet Liberato of DDB to the event launch of an anti-smoking campaign held at the Manila Diamond Hotel in Ermita, Manila, last August 6, 2015. Entitled "Cigarettes are Eating You Alive", this initiative aims to curb tobacco use and manufacture through widely-disseminated Public Service Announcements (PSA's) in national television. Apart from this objective, the campaign also encourages public support for anti-smoking legislation and graphic health warnings in cigarette packs. It also aims to encourage smokers to quit and protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

The generous hosts for the afternoon were the Department of Health (DOH), together with the World Lung Foundation and the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP). These are three prominent organizations that have dedicated time, effort, and money to curbs the deleterious effects of tobacco use in the country.

To orient the media about this campaign, prominent officials of the three aforementioned organizations, as well as those of the World Health Organization, were present. The DOH was represented by Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell Ubial, Assistant Secretary of Health, and Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, the Director III of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control. On the other end, Engineer Emerito Rojas, founder of the New Vois Foundation of the Philippines, represented his foundation. The World Health Organization was adequately represented by Dr. Benjamin Lane, the Acting Country Representative of the Philippine Branch. The World Lung Foundation sent two emissaries, namely Sandra Mullin, Senior President of Policy and Communications, and Mego Lien, the Associate Director of Southeast Asia Programs -Policy, Advocacy, and Communications. Lastly, another government agency, the MMDA or Metro Manila Development Authority, was represented by Usec. Corazon T. Jimenez.

During the two hour talk, these prominent officials discussed the dangers of cigarette smoke and the progress on the anti-smoking campaign. To start off, Dr. Benjamin Lane read out the letter given by her colleague, Dr. Susan Pineda-Mercado. Dr. Mercado expressed the WHO support for the campaign and called on intensified efforts to promote it. She congratulated our very own DOH for accelerating the pace of the initiative.

Dr. Ubial, on the other hand, gave a progress report on the campaign. She noted that since the anti-smoking campaign was launched a few years back, there has been a significant decrease on the use of cigarettes. She noted that laws such as the Sin Tax legislation launched in 2012 has contributed centrally to this decline. She also conceded, however, that this measure is not enough. There has to be more punitive legislation on this matter. The world average for cigarette costs, according to her, is at $2 per pack. In the Philippines, a stick is only at about $1. Truly, there has to be an advocacy to increase taxes to diminish cigarette sales.

Dr. Suy presented the deleterious effects of smoking on a person's health. He educated us on the effects of second-hand and third-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is the excretion of smoke from a cigarette that is inhaled by persons within proximity of the fumes. This kind of smoke is known to be even more dangerous than the smoke directly inhaled by the smoker. Third-hand smoke is the absorption of cigarette smoke into fabrics or other materials within the environment near the fumes. This is still pretty dangerous to one's health despite the fact that the smoker or the cigarette is already gone.

Engr. Rojas informed us of updates on the inclusion of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. He noted that manufacturers of tobacco have used legal loopholes to sell cigarette packs with no graphic health warning. There was a gap in the law that provided for a grace period for compliance with the graphic warning requirement. However, he was still optimistic that the law will be strengthened to compel manufacturers to comply.

Usec Jimenez noted that the campaign to stop cigarette smoking in the Metro Manila area has been successfully implemented by the MMDA in coordination with local government units. She revealed that the local government units themselves were eager to increase and implement the no-smoking public spaces for the benefit of its constituents. Also, she notes that the MMDA has already caught about 265,000 violators of anti-smoking ordinances in public spaces.

The ad campaign, on the other hand, was launched by the representatives of the WLF, Sandra Mullin and Mego Lien. According to them, the money for creating this PSA was funded by prominent individuals and groups such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They also noted that almost $300,000 has been spent to create the campaign. They also disclosed that a similar campaign has been successful before in other parts of the world. The previous success of these similar campaigns shows the strength of this advocacy.

Tobacco use in the Philippines has been highly recorded in statistical data. According to the Tobacco Atlas, more than 15 million Filipino adults use cigarettes every day. Also, more Filipino men and women smoke more than the average than other people in middle-income countries across the world. As to second-hand smoke, statistics from the 2009 Philippines Global Adult Tobacco Survey have shown that 32.9 million Filipinos are exposed to it every day. The overall ratings show that more than 50% of adults and teenagers are exposed to it in public places. With respect to tobacco use worldwide, the Tobacco Atlas has shown that it is the world's number one preventable cause of mortality. 71,000 people die in the Philippines every year from tobacco-related diseases. As for second-hand smoke, about 600,00 people die from it every year.

The PSA's, on another note, will be broadcast in 15 or 30 second durations on national TV. It will also be aired on LED billboards in Metro Manila. The PSA is projected to reach 40 million Filipinos. Together with the help of subsequent punitive tobacco legislation and graphic health warnings, the initiative is poised to become a powerful tool in disseminating knowledge about the health risks of tobacco.

Special thanks to:
Ms. Millet Liberato of DDB for the video

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