Global non-profit organization Vital Strategies today welcomed the news that the Philippines’ government has signed an Executive Order (EO) that implements a national smoke-free policy; however, concerns remain that it includes a provision for designated smoking areas (DSAs), meaning that it does not conform to best practice as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which the Philippines is a signatory.
“The science is clear: even brief exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) can cause immediate harm. The dangers are significant, ranging from strokes and heart attacks to cancers and asthma. So Filipinos in villages, towns and cities previously lacking a smoke-free law have reason to be pleased that they will now be offered some protection, although this is not as strong as the protection currently enjoyed by citizens of cities like Davao and Iloilo City, where a fully comprehensive smoke-free policy is in place,” said Vital Strategies’ President and CEO José Luis Castro.
“No one should be forced to breathe SHS. Unfortunately, designated smoking areas reduce the effectiveness of smoke-free laws,” continued Castro. “Even the tobacco industry’s own research confirms that invisible cigarette smoke spreads easily through buildings with DSAs, via ventilation systems and door openings. In addition, no one should have to suffer the toxic impacts of SHS because of their job. As implementation of the EO is considered, we urge government to include rules and regulations that protect workers – such as servers or cleaners – from working in enclosed DSAs. Government has the opportunity to ensure this. We hope that the final IRR may better reflect the policy adopted by Davao or Iloilo City, but in the meantime the priority must be strong enforcement of the EO, to make sure that people in smoke-free areas are protected from SHS.”
There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and this mostly invisible killer takes a terrible toll on the health of people in the Philippines. In addition to the 3,000 non-smoking adult Filipinos who die every year of lung cancer as a result of inhaling SHS, many others suffer or die from SHS-related stroke, laryngeal cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and other conditions.
In women, SHS has reproductive effects and is linked to breast cancer and pre-term delivery. Among babies and children, SHS exposure can cause respiratory illness, middle ear disease, sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight. Studies also have found links with SHS exposure and learning disabilities. Laboratory tests reveal that the harmful effects of exposure to SHS in children may even be vastly underestimated.
Vital Strategies has previously supported mass media campaigns in the Philippines, such as “Cigarettes are Eating You Alive” and “Cigarettes Are Eating Your Baby Alive,” to warn people about the harms of tobacco and show why it’s vital to protect others – especially children – from the harms of second-hand smoke.