PANAMA CITY –– The Philippines is making significant strides in its fight against smoking through a “collective and balanced approach” that has helped bring down tobacco use from among adult Filipinos from 23.8 percent in 2015 to 19.5 percent in 2021.
“This key achievement is the result of a collective and balanced approach, with whole-of-society and whole-of-government efforts in advocating and implementing effective policies and legislative measures,” Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Dominic Guevara told the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) being held at the Panama Convention Center.
Guevara, who heads the Philippine Delegation, spoke on the conference’s opening session on Monday, February 5, to report the Philippines’ “notable progress” in implementing the FCTC since the country became a party to the treaty in 2005.
Guevara said the Philippines has strengthened its multisectoral national strategy and coordinating mechanism on tobacco regulation and adopted new policies, including those that reduce tobacco harm.
He pointed to the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act” (Republic Act 11900), which he described as a “landmark legislation” that “aims to reduce the harm caused by smoking” by establishing a “comprehensive and differentiated regulatory framework for the importation, manufacture, sale, and use of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and other novel tobacco products.”
Congress passed the measure in 2022 as part of the Philippine government’s holistic approach on tobacco control and regulation, joining other countries that have adopted “harm reduction” as part of their tobacco control strategies.
Harm reduction is one of the three key “weapons” that parties to the FCTC may employ to control tobacco use. Article 1 (d) of the FCTC defines tobacco control as “a range of supply, demand and harm-reduction strategies” that member parties may adopt to “improve the health of the population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke.”
Harm-reduction strategies include the use of “heated or vaporized tobacco” in place of cigarettes, which are “burned.”
There is a wealth of scientific evidence that the use of these so-called tobacco-harm-reduction (THR) products greatly reduces tobacco harm compared to smoking.
In fact, at the Congressional hearing on the vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products regulation bill in 2019, World Health Organization Representative Dr. Ranti Fayokun, scientist in the National Capacity-Tobacco Control Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, told the House of Representatives that compared to cigarettes, using heated tobacco or vaporized nicotine is less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
In New Zealand, smoking rate has dropped from 16.4 percent in 2012 to 6.8 percent in 2023 with several measures, including those that allow smokers to shift from smoking cigarettes to using heated (not burned) tobacco or vaporized nicotine, according to New Zealand’s report to the FCTC COP10 in Panama.
New Zealand’s representative to COP10 said this was “achieved…through a mix of FCTC-endorsed measures, including regulation, community-based initiatives and targeted stop-smoking support.”
“Our approach also involved a considered implementation of evidence-based harm-reductio measures that includes making a range of nicotine-replacement products available to people who smoke.
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