More and more of the country’s youth are lighting up, with 2 out of every 5 Filipino teenagers taking up smoking in 2011, according to the National Youth Commission (NYC).
Using data from a Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2003 and 2007, the NYC has raised the alarm about the increasing trend among the country’s youth to take up smoking and urged the government to impose stricter controls and higher taxes on tobacco and liquor.
“Certainly, based on these [the survey’s] estimates, the health of teenage Filipinos are now direly at risk from tobacco exposure and future smoking-related diseases. The immediate execution of more stringent tobacco control policies—such as the Aquino administration’s proposed sin tax reforms—is sorely needed,” the NYC said.
The Global Youth survey said it expected the uptake in tobacco use to rise even higher in 2011 because of the decrease in the price of cigarettes and the high demand for tobacco products. Some 5.3 million cigarette packs were sold in 2011, the highest volume of cigarette packs sold in a year since 1993, it said.
The survey said around 50.8 percent, or half of all Filipinos aged 13 to 15, would have tried a tobacco product by 2011.
By 2011, smoking among teeners aged 13 to 15 may have increased to as much as 38.2 percent (equivalent to 2.2 million people), or 2 out of every 5 young Filipinos, it said.
The survey said young people who are not smoking would be exposed to second-hand smoke. It noted that 3 out of 5 teenage Filipinos would live in homes where a family member is a regular smoker, while 78.1 percent, or 4 out of 5, would live in communities with numerous smokers.
NYC chair Leon Flores called for raising the price of cigarettes to discourage young people from taking up the habit.
“If the cost of cigarettes is high, fewer people will buy it. This is just one of the steps we see to curb this vice among the youth,” Flores said.
He cited a recent survey conducted by the University of the Philippines Communication Research Society with Health Justice Philippines that found 60 percent of the sample population would quit smoking if cigarettes were to be priced at P5 per stick.
Battle over sin taxes
The NYC is sounding the alarm over the dangers of smoking as the battle for higher excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol rages between and among health experts, government, and cigarette makers and breweries.