The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- Hundreds of anti-smoking advocates on Thursday picketed a tobacco exposition at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, calling the event illegal and demanding that government ensure it is not used to further promote smoking and tobacco use, especially among the youth.
ProTobEx Asia and its sister event, Inter-Tabac Asia, is billed as “the region’s only international trade show exclusively highlighting tobacco products and accessories.”
The exposition opened Thursday and runs until Saturday, March 17.
However, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines claimed that the twin tobacco events do not have the required permits from the Pasay City government.
FCAP spearheaded the protest by some 2,000 anti-tobacco campaigners, among them cancer patients, bikers, health enthusiasts, health experts, parents and students.
Also joining the picket were the Seventh Day Adventist church, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Philippine Cancer Society, Philippine Nurses Association, HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Ecowaste Coalition, Alay Kapwa and community organizations from Manila and Pasay.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP executive director, said the holding of the exposition “clearly shows the industry’s consistent disregard of authorities in this country as they continue to undermine the local tobacco control laws on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship …”
The protesters also said the event ran counter to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
A paper prepared by SEATCA detailed how the tobacco industry works to undermine the WHO-FCTC and urged the Philippine government to implement key treaty obligations without delay, including raising cigarette prices through higher taxes, requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, declaring smoke-free public and work places, and banning all forms of tobacco promotions.
The protesters said the Philippines has an estimated 17 million smokers and sees an average of 10 tobacco-related deaths every hour from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema.
The Philippines also has the highest female smoking prevalence rate in the Southeast Asian region.
SEATCA director Bungon Rithiphakdee said around 2.4 million people per year die of tobacco-related deaths in Asia, or 6,575 deaths daily.
“Despite this grim fact, the tobacco industry is pushing to increase its market and profits in the region, spelling more diseases and deaths, particularly for our poor and underprivileged,” Rithiphakdee said.
“This is a national public health disaster, with new tactics and strategies targeting our women and youth,” Dr. Rachel del Rosario, Philippine Cancer Society executive director, said. “The Protobex/Intertabac 2012 expo itself is looking to expand product choices to include more flavored and smokeless cigarettes (and) attractive packaging, shrouded in a ‘harmless’ marketing and promotion event that should not be tolerated by our country.”