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Smoking in the Philippines

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Smoking in the Philippines

A selection of cigarette brands sold in the Philippines

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,[1] 28.3 percent of the population are "current tobacco smokers". This figure represents 17.3 million of 61.3 million adult Filipinos.[2]

The Philippines was the 15th[3] largest consumer of tobacco in the world in 2002 and currently has one of the highest smoking rates in cancer, stroke, lung and heart diseases brought on by cigarette smoking.[6]

The Philippines is a party to the [4]


Smoking the family cigar, Northern Luzon, 1912

Tobacco was introduced in the Philippines in the late 16th century[8] during the era of Spanish colonization when the Augustinians brought cigar tobacco seeds to the colony for cultivation.[9] In 1686, William Dampier visited Mindanao and observed that smoking was a widespread custom. It had also become an article of foreign trade with the Dutch from Tidore and Ternate buying rice, beeswax and tobacco from the Spanish colony.[8]

Tobacco monopoly

The tobacco monopoly in the Philippine islands during the Spanish era was established by Governor-General José Basco y Vargas on March 1, 1782 with the aim of increasing government revenue.[10] Spearheaded by the Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País (Economic Societies of Friends of the Country), tobacco was cultivated under strict government control confined to the Cagayan Valley, the Ilocos provinces, Nueva Ecija and Marinduque. The tobacco farmers were given quotas each year and the entire crop was then bought by the government. The tobacco leaves were then brought to Manila and made into cigars and cigarettes in government-owned factories, later to be shipped out for export. Tobacco became a major commodity in the galleon trade.[9]

The tobacco monopoly made the colony self-sustaining and profit-earning.[11] In 1808, the government realized a net profit of P500,000.00. These profits increased in subsequent years, reaching $3,000,000 in 1881. As a consequence of the monopoly, the Philippines became the biggest tobacco-producing country in Asia. However, it led to abuses by government officials who wanted to enrich themselves. The farmers abhorred the crop as they were at the mercy of government agents who cheated on its price, and they did not have the liberty to raise other crops for themselves and their families. The monopoly also encouraged bribery and smuggling due to the desire to evade strict government regulations. The tobacco monopoly was abolished in 1882.[12]


Tobacco packaging warning messages on cigarette packs sold in the Philippines

Republic Act No. 9211, otherwise known as the "Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003", makes it unlawful for any person under the age of 18 years to purchase, sell or smoke tobacco products.[13] Yet a survey conducted by the Department of Health revealed that children as young as five years old are already starting to smoke.[14] The Tobacco Regulation Act also implements certain restrictions and bans on tobacco-related advertisements, endorsements, sponsorships and packaging.[13]

The Tobacco Regulation Act only requires text health warnings, despite the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control treaty which was adopted in May 2003 and of which the Philippines is a signatory. In 2010, the Department of Health issued an administrative order requiring the inclusion of graphic warning labels on packs and prohibiting the use of misleading descriptors such as "mild" and "light" on tobacco product packaging and labels pursuant to Article 11 of the WHO FCTC. In response, the tobacco companies filed five cases against the Department of Health questioning its authority.[15] In June 2014, a legislative committee composed of senators and congressmen passed a bill compelling cigarette manufacturers to print pictures and illustrations that warn about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packs. The images will occupy the lower half of the front and rear panels of a cigarette pack and could include pictures of cancerous lungs and throats.[16]

Smoking ban

The Tobacco Regulation Act bans smoking in public places such as schools and recreational facilities, elevators and stairwells, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories, public conveyances and public facilities such as airports and ship terminals, train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, with the exception of separate smoking rooms.[13]


The Filipinos' preferred tobacco product is the cigarette,[2] the most popular brand being Marlboro.[17] It is estimated that each adult smoker consumes 838[18] cigarettes, equating to about 42 cigarette packs, per year.

There are 17.3 million Filipino adult smokers (15 years or older), 48 percent (14.6 million) of which are males and 9 percent (2.8 million) are females.[2] In addition, 23 percent of Filipino adults are daily tobacco smokers; 38.2 percent for males, who on the average smoked 11 cigarettes a day, and 6.9 percent for females, who on average smoked 7 cigarettes per day.[19] Nearly half (48 percent) of the adult smokers had made an attempt to quit,[19] however, only 5 percent were successful.[2]

Second-hand tobacco smoke is also a concern. More than half (55 percent) of adults who use public transportation are exposed to it;[2] in workplaces with no anti-smoking policy, more than 75 percent of workers are exposed.[19]

A survey conducted by the Department of Health in 2007 determined that 1 in 5 Filipino students is a cigarette smoker. Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke was also high, with 7 in 10 exposed to second-hand smoke around other people outside the home. In addition, more than half of the students had a parent who was as smoker.[20]

See also

External links

  • Department of Health: Smoke-Free Philippines
  • Department of Agriculture: National Tobacco Administration

Further reading


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