MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has opposed and dissociated from pro-tobacco industry statements made by the Philippine delegation in the ongoing 9th Conference of Parties (COP9) of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a discussion on the global progress in the implementation of tobacco control, the Philippine delegation reportedly made statements that promoted the interest of the tobacco industry.
The group reportedly described tobacco products such as vapor and heated tobacco products as “salutary” and “source of good”.
The delegation also praised the tobacco industry for their efforts in self-regulation and developing novel, nonetheless, still harmful alternatives.
In a statement, the health department maintained that there is no good in tobacco.
The DOH also said that “giving misleading information that dilutes the risks of tobacco products and undue recognition to tobacco industries, including those of vapor products and heated tobacco products, is harmful.”
The health department also slammed the Philippine delegation for making statements that “negate the very principles of the WHO FCTC and undermine the progress the Philippines has made to curb tobacco use.”
“Praising the tobacco industry for its importance in public health funding is misleading,” the DOH further said.
It also said that there must be “a whole-of-government approach in regulating the marketing and sale of products that are harmful both to the health and economy of the Filipino people”.
The health department noted that in 2011, the estimated cost of tobacco-related diseases was Php 177 billion annually, which was about seven times higher than the total collected taxes from tobacco products in 2011 amounting to Php 25.9 billion.
It added that the Tobacco Industry Interference Index of the Philippines worsened, from 38 in 2016 to 57 in 2020.
The Tobacco Industry Interference Index determines the efforts made by governments to address tobacco industry interference.
“Continued tobacco industry interference diminishes our efforts in promoting public health and safeguarding the Filipinos from the harms of using and exposure to tobacco products,” the DOH said.
The DOH reiterated its support to “the call of COP9 to maximize transparency of the delegation and participants to safeguard the WHO FCTC from the tobacco industry, in strict observance of Article 5.3 of the treaty”.
“The DOH enjoins the Filipino people, public health advocates, and champions of tobacco prevention and control to remain vigilant of the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industries and to stay united in our goal of protecting the integrity of public health policies now more than ever,” the DOH statement said.
The 9th Session of the COP to WHO FCTC is currently being held virtually in Geneva, Switzerland until November 13, 2021. —/mbmf