MANILA, Philippines – Almost a tenth of Filipino teenagers are now smokers, and they can only be discouraged from the habit if cigarette prices go up but only by about a thousandfold or more.
This is according to a survey of 13- to 17-year-olds conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in late August, at the height of Senate deliberations on increasing excise taxes on tobacco products, which will consequently increase cigarette prices.
The bill seeks to tax tobacco products more not only to increase government revenues but precisely to discourage people from smoking and thus arrest diseases and productivity losses resulting from it.
The survey sought only teenagers–1,200 of them–apparently because, according to tobacco control advocates, the tobacco industry is targetting the youth as replacement smokers because of its adult clientele either quit or die. The SWS survey, titled Usage, Attitudes, and Behavior of Filipino Minors aged 13-17 Toward Smoking, was commissioned by HealthJustice, one of the organizations watching the tobacco industry in the Philippines. The survey had a margin of error of +/-3%.
Of the respondents, 8% are current smokers, while most of them (88%) are non-smokers; 4% are previous smokers. There are more current smokers among males (15%, compared to only 1% among females). Non-smokers among females are at a high 97% (compared to 79% of males).
Data showed these smokers can consume an average of 5 sticks a day. Males can smoke 5 sticks while females can smoke an average of 4 sticks.
In the past month or 30 days, data showed the 5 most popular brands among teen smokers are Fortune, Marlboro, Mighty, Champion, and Winston.
The SWS said 56% of teen smokers smoked Fortune cigarettes, while 29% smoked Marlboro. Around 5% smoked Mighty, 3% smoked Champion, and 2% Winston. Other brands, such as More, Plaza, Boss, Hope, and Philip were smoked by 1% of teen smokers within 30 days before the survey.
The survey showed that taste was the determining factor why young smokers chose a particular brand. Price was only a secondary consideration.
The most number of smokers (28%) said they will stop smoking if the price of a cigarette stick increases to P10. The current prices of their preferred brands are P1-P3 per stick.
Another chunk of smokers (16%) will stop smoking if cigarette prices increased to P5 per stick.
Around 14% of them will stop smoking only if cigarette prices increase to as much as P100 per stick; 1% if prices go up to P200 per stick; and 3% if it reaches P1,000 per stick.
An earlier survey by Laylo Research Strategies showed that about half of Filipino smokers will likely quit if the government increased “sin” taxes.
There have been efforts to require tobacco firms to use on cigarette packs graphic images of the ill effects of smoking, a commitment of the Philippines to an international convention.
Among the smoking teenagers, 34% said they will quit if they see the graphic hearth warnings, while majority or 64% said they will only reduce their consumption. 3% said they will continue to smoke even after seeing the graphic warnings.
While it is clear to half of the teen smokers that smoking is “definitey harmful” to their health and another quarter believe it is “probably harmful” to their health, it is alarming that 15% of teen smokers think smoking is “definitely not harmful” to their health. Another 10% believe smoking is “probably not harmful” to their health.
Among the 4% who said they used to smoke, the SWS data showed, 64% said they quit smoking because they want to improve their health.
Around 33% of them quit because of their family’s disapproval of the habit. Some 2% quit because of school and work policies that discouraged smoking, and another 2% quit because of the price of the smoking habit. – Rappler.com