Capacity assessment on implementation of effective tobacco control policies in the Philippines
In 2011, a group of international and local experts in tobacco control collaborated with the Department of Health to assess the country’s efforts in implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The most significant challenges identified are:
- Cigarettes are highly affordable in the country largely due to low taxes and a complex tax structure.
- Effective local government efforts for creating smoke-free environment exist and non-government organizations are making important contributions.
- There is a lack of coordinated national cessation infrastructure/system and paucity of cessation providers that hamper the implementation of the national cessation policy.
- Mass media activities are irregular and use weak, ineffective content.
- Graphic health warnings on tobacco packages can be implemented even though court cases are pending.
- The National Tobacco Control Strategy and Medium Term Plan are still to be developed.
The following recommendations should be implemented by the Department of Health, in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, with the exception of the tobacco industry:
- Simplify the existing tobacco tax structure, significantly raise tobacco product taxes and index taxes to inflation in order to raise tobacco product prices and reduce tobacco use. Earmark revenues from tobacco taxes for health priorities.
- At least double the number of local government units (LGUs) with 100% smoke-free policy initiatives through dedicated financial and technical support and with active involvement of non-governmental organizations.
- Develop a coordinated national cessation infrastructure that incorporates both population and clinical approaches in a stepwise manner and build on and augment existing resources and service delivery mechanisms.
- Initiate a sustained programme of quarterly public awareness campaigns with content proven as effective in the country.
- Given the scientific evidence supporting the use of graphic health warnings, LGU implementation should be encouraged and supported by the DOH.
- The DOH should finalize and officially make a National Strategy and Plan of Action that will be reviewed on a regular basis.