The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) is calling on the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to strengthen its actions versus the illicit trade of tobacco products in the country in order to help in fighting smoking-related illnesses.

In its statement on the observance of the World No Tobacco Day 2015, NVAP President Emer Rojas said there is a need for the BOC to be at the forefront if the Philippines is to stop smuggling activities of tobacco products.

“600 billion cigarettes are smuggled across international borders annually which represents 11.6% of the global cigarette market,” said Rojas.

He noted how smuggling activities pose a huge threat to the country’s fight versus the tobacco epidemic which undermines the gains of the Sin Tax Law and other tobacco control initiatives.

“With low-priced illicit tobacco products available in the market, it will not be surprising if the youth and women, which are the prime target of tobacco companies as replacement smokers, will continue to be lured into the smoking addiction,” said Rojas.

This, the Global Cancer Ambassador furthered, means that more Filipinos will continue to be vulnerable to smoking-related illnesses.

Data from the Tobacco Atlas shows that 24 million Filipinos are exposed to tobacco smoke on a daily basis and that there are close to 90,000 annual deaths due to cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular and respiratory ailments in the Philippines.

Rojas said the impending implementation of the Graphic Health Warning (GHW) Law in the country is touted to help in the curbing tobacco smuggling as picture warnings are country-specific.

“It would be very easy for authorities to spot smuggled tobacco products since the GHWs are unique to their country of origin…unless of course the cigarettes are exact fake copycats,” he said.

“If there are no GHW warnings on cigarette packs seen once the Philippines begins implementing Republic Act 10643, it will only mean that the said product were smuggled,” said Rojas.

Today (Sunday), May 31, is the observance of the World No Tobacco Day 2015 with this year’s theme being the stopping of the illicit trade of tobacco products.

And as part of the annual celebration highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use, NVAP is set to be among the lead participants in the holding of the first Quezon City Bike Day.

An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 bikers are expected to attend the activity that will start and end at the Quezon City Memorial Circle (QCMC).

Bikers will be holding a 22 kilometer bike ride beginning 6:30 a.m. until 9 a.m.

The bike route will be from the QCMC, straight via Philcoa and Commonwealth Highway; turn right at Tandang Sora Avenue via Ayala Heights; straight to Tandang Sora and pass thru C.P. Garcia and Ateneo; take bottom flyover of Katipunan / Aurora Blvd; straight thru Blue Ridge and pass thru Santolan Avenue; straight thru White Plains Avenue until Mormon Church; turn right at Mormon Drive then straight until EDSA; turn right at People Power Monument near Camp Aguinaldo; straight thru EDSA, take bottom Santolan flyover; take bottom Cubao underpass, take bottom GMA Kamuning; take bottom Quezon Blvd flyover until SM North Edsa; turn right at North Avenue then straight until QCMC.

The Quezon City Bike Day aims to help citizens make a mind-shift from being car-centric to being more conscious of using their bicycles and walking on a daily basis to promote healthy exercise, road safety and environmental protection.