PANAMA — The Philippines has pledged to enhance its tobacco control measures, as reported during the 10th Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10-WHO FCTC), which took place from February 5 to 10.

According to Philippines News Agency, in a statement delivered by Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Digital Media and Communications Patricia Kayle Martin, the government recognizes the advancements made in combating tobacco use but acknowledges ongoing challenges. The Philippines has seen a significant reduction in tobacco usage, with the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) indicating a decrease from 23.8 percent in 2015 to 19.5 percent in 2021. Guevara attributed this success to a combined effort from both society and government in advocating for and implementing effective policies and legislative measures.

Under the Marcos administration, a strengthened multi-sectoral national strategy on tobacco regulation has been put in place, adhering to Articles 5.1 and 5.2a of the FCTC. This strategy involves the development, implementation, and review of comprehensive national tobacco control strategies and the establishment of a national coordinating mechanism for tobacco control.

Guevara highlighted the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11900, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which provides a regulatory framework for vaporized nicotine products, including restrictions on sales near schools and playgrounds. This act complements existing legislation such as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, the Graphic Health Warning Law, and Excise Tax Laws on novel tobacco products.

The government has also benefited financially from tobacco control measures, securing USD3 billion from excise taxes on tobacco and vapor products in 2022. These funds have supported universal healthcare, COVID-19 recovery initiatives, and infrastructure projects across the country. Consistent increases in excise tax rates on cigarettes since 2012 have contributed to making cigarettes less affordable and reducing consumption, in line with FCTC Article 6.

Additionally, the Philippines is advancing legislation to combat tobacco smuggling by declaring it as economic sabotage, aiming to curb the illicit tobacco trade. Guevara assured that the Philippines will continue to engage in constructive dialogues and collaborations with other parties of the conference to address challenges and further the goals of the Convention.

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