FROM 17 million in 2009, the number of Filipino smokers has gone down to 15.9 million in 2015, according to the latest Philippines’ Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS).
The Department of Health (DOH) announced that the GATS-Philippines 2015 showed that the tobacco use prevalence among Filipinos aged 15 and above has gone down from 29.7 percent in 2009 to 23.8 percent in 2015.
“One million Filipinos have quit tobacco use – the biggest decline we have seen in Philippine history, and we can do more to stop the suffering caused by this epidemic,” said DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial.
She said the reduction in the number of smokers means that there are at least a million Filipinos that are now at lower risk from cancer, heart ailments, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Aside from the number of smokers, victims of second-hand smoke have also gone down significantly in homes, from 54 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2015; and in the workplaces, from 32 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2015.
However, the survey revealed that exposure to second-hand smoke remains high in bars and nightclubs, with 86 percent; and in restaurants, with 33 percent.
Lastly, the GATS 2015 showed that the interest in the public’s interest in quitting smoking has gone up from 60 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2015.
“Three out of four smokers in the Philippines want to quit and that families and health providers should support those who want to get out of nicotine addiction,” said Ubial.
The health chief attributed the decrease in the number of smokers as well as exposures to second-hand smoke to the increase in the prices of tobacco products brought about by the Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012, among others.
She said that the sin tax law has resulted to cigarette products becoming more inaccessible to the public, especially to the poor and the youth.
“We look forward to more positive outcomes from Republic Act 10351 in the long run,” said Ubial.
The GATS is the global standard protocol in monitoring adult tobacco use and was first conducted in the Philippines in 2009, and again in 2015.
A total of 11,644 were interviewed for the GATS 2015 with a response rate of 92 percent.
Despite the positive outcome of the GATS 2015, Ubial said they are still looking for ways to bring the number of smokers down further.
“There are still too many Filipinos who shell out substantial amount of their monthly income to support their smoking habit. There is still much to be done in our country’s efforts to limit and curtail tobacco use, especially for the economically-disadvantaged countrymen,” said the DOH head.
She said this is the reason the DOH has been strongly pushing for the complete ban on cigarette smoking in public places nationwide, just like the one imposed in Davao City by then mayor Rodrigo Duterte.