The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) revealed that reducing tobacco use in the country by 30 percent is a major step to curbing deaths from non-communicable diseases in the next ten years.

Citing data from the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on NCDs, NVAP President Emer Rojas noted that NCDs, the leading causes of deaths both in the Philippines and globally, could be addressed by altering lifestyle choices including quitting smoking.

The report sets out nine targets in the prevention and control of NCDs which estimates that a 30 percent reduction in country rates of adult tobacco use will achieve a 25 percent drop in deaths caused by the top four non-communicable diseases by 2025.

“Gone are the days when people fear contracting a disease due to infection. Non-communicable diseases are now the world’s leading causes of death around the world with lifestyle choices such as smoking as a major factor,” Rojas said.

Aside from smoking, the report also identified poor diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol as risk factors for NCD.

Of the 56 million deaths that were recorded worldwide in 2012, around 38 million were due to NCDS with cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory ailments, and diabetes as the leading causes.

The report has revealed that NCD deaths have increased in every region since 2000 with nearly three quarters occurring in low and middle-income countries.

The Western Pacific Region where the Philippines belong, topped the area with the most number of NCD deaths from 8.6 million in 2000 to 10.9 million in 2012. Cancer alone kills more people than AIDS, Malaria, and TB combined. If no action is taken now, over 17 million people are projected to succumb from this disease by 2030.

Rojas said while deaths due to infectious diseases are expected to decline, global mortality from NCDs is projected to spike to 52 million by 2030.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death that leads to one in six NCDs. It is also a risk factor for 6 out of 8 leading causes of death killing six million people in the world annually.

In the Philippines, deaths from NCDs have significantly increased during the last 35 years with cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer being the major causes.

“Because risk factors associated with the development of NCDs are preventable, it is very important to increase efforts and collaboration aimed at changing social behavior to turn these lifestyle-borne diseases around,” said Rojas.

Rojas said while the implementation of the sin tax and the graphic health warning laws are steps in the right direction, much is still to be done to continue making significant progress at reducing tobacco use in the Philippines with about 17.3 million adults smoking, one of the highest in Southeast Asia.