With the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Law and the Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law happening under the present administration, the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) is hoping that President Benigno Aquino III will make it a “strike three” by backing the endgame strategy for tobacco.

According to NVAP President Emer Rojas, they are hopeful that the Aquino government will continue to support efforts to eliminate tobacco use in the country as well as help Filipinos stay away from smoking-related illnesses.

“We are hoping the administration will continue to play a key role in reducing tobacco use far below current levels. Doing so will benefit not only the government but also for public health,” said Rojas.

Based on the endgame strategy of tobacco control advocates, there is a need for a reduction of current tobacco use to a prevalence rate of five percent or below.

This is far lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) target, which is a 30 percent relative reduction by 2025 from the 2010 baseline.

Among the top three approaches for the endgame strategy, Rojas said, include the increase in taxes for tobacco products, placing GHWs in cigarette packs, and promoting smoke-free environment.

“Such policies are already in place in the country. All that is needed is for our authorities and other stakeholders to strictly implement them and we have our endgame strategy for tobacco use in place,” said the staunch anti-smoking advocate.

Other strategies proposed are the reduction of nicotine to non-addictive levels; removal of cancer-producing substances; banning multiple versions of the same brand; regulate cigarettes as a controlled substance; requiring a smoker’s license that is renewable annually; limiting the number/types of retail outlets; imposing plain/standardized packaging with no colors and brand images but only brand names; and making cessation services free to all smokers. These strategies are being considered in many advanced countries.

Rojas said such actions are also necessary since it is the commitment of the country being a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Citing as an example, Rojas noted how New Zealand has already adopted an endgame strategy for tobacco use by aiming to eliminate smoking by 2025.

New Zealand’s strategies include having smoke-free cars; making cigarettes harder to purchase; mandating plain/standardized packs; banning duty-free tobacco; imposing tax hikes; adopting mass media shock tactics; removing all flavor enhancers; and placing quit-smoking support.

In so doing, the NVAP head said the government will be able to limit tobacco use and reduce chances of having more Filipinos afflicted with tobacco-related illnesses.

“By adopting the endgame strategy, the Aquino government can help Filipinos stop their penchant for smoking tobacco products and, in the process, also avoid having to spend millions to get them cured,” said Rojas, who is also a Global Cancer Ambassador.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, more than 505,600 children and more than 15,570,000 adults continue to use tobacco in the Philippines.

The Tobacco Atlas also said that more than 71,850 Filipinos are killed by tobacco-related illnesses every year mostly caused by cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.