The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) has warned that further delays in the implementation of the graphic health warning law may exacerbate cancer incidence in the country.

NVAP President Emer Rojas said the implementation of the law, signed by President Benigno Aquino III in July last year, has remained in limbo because of technicalities and delaying tactics by the tobacco industry.

Tobacco companies have 18 months to sell old stocks and comply with the law by producing graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

Rojas said the Department of Health has already approved the 12 templates that will be used in printing the graphic health warnings but there are still some issues being ironed out following last resort appeals by the industry.

“As the world gears for plain packaging the Philippines is still lagging behind and struggling to implement the GHW law. This would be detrimental to public health as it may mean more deaths due to smoking including cancer,” Rojas said.

Rojas cited France as an example as it recently moves to impose plain packaging for cigarettes as part of an anti-cancer drive to address tobacco mortality that claims 73,000 lives annually.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that around 59,000 Filipinos die of cancer every year. On the other hand, about 98,200 people are newly diagnosed of cancer in the country annually. DOH data confirms that nine Filipinos are diagnosed with cancer every hour.

“More than 16 types of cancer are attributable to smoking. Cancer due to tobacco use make up a fifth of all global cancer deaths. That is why having a very strong tobacco control program is one significant step to addressing cancer incidence in the Philippines,” Rojas said citing data from the Cancer Atlas, produced by the American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Union for International Cancer Control.

Tobacco contains 7,000 chemicals including 70 cancer-causing ingredients. Smoking significantly increases the risks of developing cancers including those of the lung, esophagus, oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx.

Smoking is projected to kill 8 million people annually around the world by 2030.

Rojas said quitting smoking can avoid developing lung cancer by 60 percent. Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer among men and women in the Western Pacific Region.

Two hundred thousand of cancer deaths among women in low and middle-income countries are blamed on smoking while it is higher among men at 700,000.

“However, cancer is not a death sentence. The advancement in treatment is readily available in our hands. What we need is to have access to health promotion, disease prevention and proper screening” said Jun Palada, a leading cancer advocate.

“Let us all help in raising cancer awareness. Let us all help save lives”, Rojas added.