Members of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) will mark World No Tobacco Day together with thousands joining the first ever Quezon City Bike Day on May 31.

Herbert Bautista, mayor of Quezon City talks about the value of bike lanes as a means of promoting good health through exercise, less pollution and cleaner air. “It is high time I start quitting to have good health and to reduce the risks of getting cancer”, he added.

NVAP President Emer Rojas said his group joins around 3,000 bikers who converge at the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Sunday at 6am. Participants will pass through Commonwealth, Tandang Sora and Katipunan Avenues, Whiteplains, EDSA and back to QC Circle to cap the event.

“This is our way of supporting a proposed ordinance to establish bike lanes in Quezon City. As we observe World No Tobacco Day we stress our commitment to protect and promote public health,” said Rojas adding that NVAP will have a booth during the activity and will distribute flyers discussing the dangers of smoking.

This year’s World No Tobacco Day zeros in on the illicit trade of cigarettes, an issue affecting many countries and undermining public health and tobacco control legislations.

It is estimated that 11.6% of cigarettes being consumed globally are illegal.

“Illicit trade of cigarettes defeats the purpose of tobacco control because they are sold cheaper than the legal brands and they easily reach children and young people adding more burden to the tobacco epidemic” Rojas said.

The World Health Organization said illegal tobacco has many shapes and forms. Some of them have missing tax stamps, others have wrong health warnings while others are counterfeit.

Illicit tobacco trade robs governments of correct tax revenues and undermines tobacco control measures including restriction on advertising.

Rojas said while it is not known how rampant illegal tobacco trade is in the Philippines, it is important to address this issue as money from this activity finances other unlawful activities such as human trafficking and terrorism as revealed by the WHO.

In 2012, parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control adopted the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that aims to engage governments to take action on this global problem.

Forty member states are needed to sign the protocol to make it an international law.

“As cancer survivors and former smokers we believe it is our mission to warn people on the hazards of smoking, to address tobacco smuggling and save more lives that are threatened by the tobacco epidemic,” said Rojas.

Smoking kills nearly six million people annually all over the world with 80 percent of consumers living in acute low and middle-income countries with less or weaker tobacco control measures.