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To Back Off from Tobacco: An Idea on Stopping Smoking in the Philppines

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by , 04-16-2012 at 09:33 PM (3653 Views)
I was on my way home after grabbing a bite when my head poked a hole through a thick puff of smoke exhaled by a smoker on the sidewalk. I coughed briefly for a few seconds and shot an angry glance at the man who nonchalantly kept on puffing off his stick. I shrugged and went on. I never really have that much of a grudge against smokers, perhaps due to the fact that I was once a smoker myself, and smoked for over 9 years before deciding to quit in 1997. I never smoked again. But sometimes I do get the feeling that, considering that second hand smoke is actually more harmful to the passing pedestrian, it feels as if my efforts at making my lungs healthier was actually pointless. But how do you stop this phenomenon, when you see people everyday, puffing off a cigarette? They come from all walks of life, and a wide age bracket, and from both genders. It seems so prevailent that any effort to stop it seems to be totally futile.

Of course, the government is supposedly doing something about it--you see them plastered all over the city and even in rural areas--photos of dissected lungs, showing the terrible (and often frightening) damage done by nicotine and tar on the human lungs. Sometimes you even see a poster showing the effects of smoking not only on the lungs but all over the human body, and these posters usually show a grotesque-looking creature(I call it the son of Gollum and Bakekang). I guess these are supposed "anti-smoking campaign" materials being spread around by the Department of Health. But are they really effective. Well it seems so--according to data I've gathered on tobacco consumption around the internet, it seems there was indeed a slowdown in cigarette sales in the Philippines, staring around mid-2009 (when these posters first came out) until now. But the same document states that just soon after that first batch of posters appeared, the line on the graph of cigarette consumption seems to be slowly creeping up the charts again in 2010. So IMHO, the campaign seems to be working to a certain extent, but not enough to totally remove the habit of smoking from society. But is it indeed even possible to get rid of it?

Yes I believe it is possible. And I think it's just a matter of approaching the problem from a different perspective. I remember a TV commercial back in the 90's--it was an ad for a mucolytic. In the commercial, a man was trying to stop water from coming out of a hose, but he had difficulty doing it, and water was spraying everywhere. It was an analogy about cough--the man stated that some cough medicines actually just try to stop cough at the point where the phlegm comes out, rather than where the phlegm is produced. Towards the end of the commercial, we see the man turning off a faucet--the source of the water, and thus the hose becomes dry.

To stop people from smoking, you have to stop the source--the tobacco industry that produces cigarettes. Here is how I see it. Cigarettes are fairly cheap, and since the tobacco industry actually benefits from the fact that perhaps 70-80% of the people who smoke come from the poor or below poverty line class in society, if cigarette prices increase, fewer and fewer of these folk will smoke--because that's how Filipinos tend to adapt--if something is cheap and available, they flock to it, and if it becomes expensive, chances are they'll shy away from it. So the next step is how to force the situation so that cigarettes become expensive?

Cigarettes are produced in factories. Inside these factories are people, workers who wash, sort, pack or operate machinery involved in the production of cigarettes. Since this is the Philippines, labor is fairly cheap, so these workers aren't really paid that much, like most other factory workers. I think if somehow, these workers are introduced into a program (sponsored by anti-smoking campaign groups, and assisted by the Department of Health) that would make them resign from their jobs as cigarette factory workers, and go to other non-cigarette related jobs, then the cigarette manufacturers would be forced to either pay the workers higher (which is a good thing right? In a way even if we didnt' succeed in convincing the worker to leave his/her job, at least perhaps we can increase his wages), or invest more in automation, but both decisions would still increase the price of cigarettes.

So how did I come up with this crazy idea? Check out these summaries From this article/report:

Volume sales of cigarettes and cigars improve in 2010

As the country recovers from the global financial crisis, better economic conditions assisted the improvement in demand for tobacco products in 2010. The reversal in trend – from a volume sales decline in 2009 to an increase in 2010 – can be attributed to most Filipinos having more stable jobs. This includes low-income smokers who comprise a significant portion of the smoking population, and who returned to regular consumption. Higher tourist arrivals – the main buyers of cigars –represented the main growth driver for this category in 2010.

Graphic health warnings on cigarette packs still not implemented
There were several bills – including Senate Bill 2147 and House Bill 3364 – that proposed the use of graphic health warnings in compliance with the requirement of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which the Philippines is a signatory, to implement the regulation by September 2008. The Department of Health also issued Administrative Order No. 13 in May 2010. This requires all cigarette manufacturers to include pictures depicting the harmful effects of smoking on cigarette packaging, and prohibits the use of misleading words such as “mild”, “light” and “ultra light”. However, neither of the two bills was enacted, nor was the administrative order put into practice until the middle of 2011.

Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp holds virtual monopoly in cigarettes
Philip Morris (Phils) Manufacturing Inc and Fortune Tobacco Corp formed a new company through a 50/50 joint venture agreement in February 2010, which created a near monopoly in the Philippine tobacco industry. The newly established Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp is responsible for the manufacture, distribution, sales and marketing of all Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco brands in the domestic market. Also, part of the deal is that Philip Morris’s export business and Fortune Tobacco’s contract manufacturing division will remain separate entities.

Other grocery retailers remains leading distribution channel
Cigarettes continued to have a strong influence on distribution as they account for the bulk of tobacco volume sales. In 2010 other grocery retailers remained the leading distribution channel due to the significant sales generated through sari-sari stores and street vendors. This reflects the purchasing behaviour of cigarette smokers in the Philippines, with most buying individual sticks rather than a whole pack. Distribution via the Internet, vending machines and direct sales was non-existent in 2010 due to the lack of need for these outlets. This was due to the high accessibility of cigarettes through sari-sari stores, convenience stores and via street vendors, with some operating on a 24/7 basis.

Slowdown in volume sales predicted over forecast period
Tobacco volume sales are predicted to slow down over the forecast period. This is mainly due to the sluggish growth of cigarettes, which account for the bulk of tobacco sales in the Philippines. The expected performance can be attributed to the implementation of graphic health warnings and constant increases in excise taxes, which are foreseen to deprive manufacturers from the opportunity to attract new, young consumers to replace older, long-term and dying smokers. Increased taxation will also minimise consumption due to higher unit prices. This will particularly affect low-income Filipinos who comprise a significant proportion of the country’s adult smoking population.

You know the saying about death and taxes (the only two sure things in life). Well, let's use taxes to kill off smoking, by increasing the excise tax further. Coupled with my idea on redirecting cigarette factory workers into other jobs, I think this will really put a considerable dent in cigarette manufacture and thus doubling or even tripling the price of that "one stick of pleasure" that's so easily accessable by smokers. Let's force the smokers to back off from to bac co.

Updated 04-16-2012 at 09:40 PM by rodsky



  1. Dorothea's Avatar
    That's a great idea.
  2. sarah.delima's Avatar
    yay hapit na jud mahimong balaud dah ..

    House passes on final reading bill regulating vapes, heated tobacco products

    maayo na lang dungag2x tax para sa gobierno ug mga proyekto niini


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