We often hear a well-known adage, “looks can be deceiving”. Such is the case with cigarette packaging as tobacco companies now use every strategy to draw consumers into cigarette addiction. A quick glance at cigarettes displayed on counters show attractive packaging geared into luring new customers from the youth and women.

Aside from the attractive packaging, in a report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) shows that ingredients are added to cigarettes to make nicotine reach the brain faster to enhance its effect. Nicotine is identified to make tobacco products addictive. Ammonia compounds and sugars found in cigarettes make it taste better and hasten the delivery of nicotine to the brain.

Tobacco companies target the youth since they are more vulnerable and would sustain their market longer. They also are more likely to get dependent on tobacco quicker than adults. According to the report, 90% of adult smokers began smoking at or before the age of 18. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that an estimated 27.5% of Filipino youth aged 13 to 15 are smokers. Of this age group, 17.5% are girls while 28.3% are boys.

Some cigarettes now come with flavors like chocolate, menthol, or licorice to entice the young consumer. Chemicals such as levulinic acid are also added to lessen the irritation and smoothen out smoke inhaling.

“Tobacco is the only legal product that if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions would surely kill half of its users,” said Engr. Emer Rojas, a cancer survivor and president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP).

“Raising the awareness on the health effects of smoking would somehow counter the cigarette companies’ aggressive marketing among the youth. Thus the Graphic Health Warning Law must be implemented the soonest. 240 Filipinos die every day because of smoking related diseases.” Rojas added.

Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warning Law was signed into law by President Aquino on July 18, 2014 and took effect on August 7, 2014. Tobacco companies were given twelve months to comply and retailers another 8 months to exhaust their non-GHW pack cigarettes.