PH among top 20 ‘smoking’ nations

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The number of female smokers in the Philippines is rising while male numbers have dropped, but the country is still one of the world's heaviest smoking nations

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are among the world’s heaviest smokers.

This is according to the Department of Health (DOH), which said Monday, June 25, that the Philippines is among the top 20 nations with the highest smoking population.

The finding, based on a study by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, highlights the country’s need to increase anti-tobacco efforts especially with the rise in female smokers in the country.

Luz Tagunicar of the DOH-National Center for Health Promotion pointed out the varying trends in Filipino male and female smokers.

While the number of Filipino male smokers saw a drop from 2006 to 2008, Tagunicar said the opposite is true for female smokers.

The study shows that between 2006 and 2008, the Philippines climbed 10 places from 26th place to 16th place in the country rankings of female smokers. The country now has 3.84 million female smokers.

Tagunicar claimed that advertising is to blame for the rise, saying women are increasingly targeted by tobacco firms which promote cigarettes as fashionable.

Filipino males, on the other hand, fell from the 6th to the 9th spot in world rankings during the same two year span, with the number of male smokers in the Philippines estimated at 17.6 million as of 2008.

Reform needed

DOH consultant Dr Anthony Leachon added that population and economy have also contributed to the Philippines’ inclusion in the list. 

“It is related to the function of population and economy, it’s absolute number. Mas mahirap ka, mas naninigarilyo ka (The poorer you are, the more likely you are to smoke),” he said.

Given the latest numbers, economists have reiterated the need for new laws that would curb smoking.

According to Jo-ann Latuja of the anti-tobacco group Action for Economic Reform, House Bill No. 5727 or the sin tax reform bill, which makes the cost of cigarettes more expensive, could help.

“A 10-percent increase in the prices will decrease consumption by 5.8%. Thus, for the most popular brand Fortune, a 76-percent increase in price will decrease consumption by 44%,” she said.

Under the bill, she said that “down shifting to lower-priced brands will be reduced due to a shift to a simpler tax structure, the steep increase in tax rates for low-priced tier and hence the reduced gap between higher-priced and lower priced brands.”

She said higher taxes should result in decreased smoking among the poor and the young.

China on top

China is in the top 3 for both male and female smokers, topping the list for the highest number of male smokers with 311 million.

India was second with 229 million male smokers followed by Indonesia with 53.3 million. The Russian Federation (32.8 million), United States (32.4 million), Japan (23 million), Bangladesh (21.4 million) and Pakistan (17.7 million) rounded up the top 8 list.

For female smokers, the US was first with 23.6 million, followed by China with 13.5 million and India with 11.9 million. The Russian Federation (10.1 million), Brazil (9.3 million), Germany (8.1 million), France (7.1 million), Japan (6.9 million) United Kingdom (6.4 million) and Nauru (4.9 million) took the 4th to the 10th spots, respectively. —

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