Cancer survivors hope PH adopts U.S. truth in ads order on big tobacco

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A man smokes somewhere in Mandaluyong while waiting for a ride despite the smoking ban. (InterAksyon file photo by Bernard Testa)

MANILA, Philippines — An organization of cancer survivors welcomed the implementation of an 11-year old U.S. federal court order compelling tobacco firms to tell the truth about the dangers of smoking and hope this prods Philippine officials to “implement policies that will protect public health.”

The New Vois Association of the Philippines said American big tobacco, led by Philip Morris USA, were to run ads on smoking in 50 print and online media starting November 26 in compliance with a 2006 court decision that found them “guilty of violating racketeering laws and engaging in decades-long conspiracy to defraud the public about the dangers of tobacco consumption and the way they marketed to children.”

The corrective statements only confirmed what the international health community has been saying all these years — that tobacco companies used deceit in marketing and that their products are nothing but deadly,” NVAP president Emer Rojas said.

However, while welcoming this “overdue” development, Rojas noted that tobacco firms “continued and still continue this pattern of deception especially in developing countries like the Philippines where tobacco control measures are weak and compromised.”

Rojas, a former chain smoker and laryngeal cancer survivor, said even as “the tobacco industry loses its grip in the West it continues to target developing countries such as the Philippines to increase sales.”

Thus, he said, the U.S. court order “should inspire our public officials to demand accountability from tobacco companies and implement policies that will protect public health against the industry’s business interests.”

He batted for a new increase on tobacco taxes to bring down the number of Filipino smokers and funnel more funds to public health, noting that, despite the passage of the tobacco sin tax in 2012, the Philippines remains to have one of the world’s cheapest cigarette products and the lowest tobacco tax.

NVAP cited the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, which showed the number of smoking Filipinos aged 15 and above went down from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million three years after the sin tax was passed.

We are appealing to our legislators to take a stand against the powerful tobacco industry and champion public health to prevent more Filipinos from getting hooked into this deadly vice,” Rojas said.