Green Advocates Laud New Tobacco Regulation, Cite Health and Environmental Benefits

Quezon City. Citizens’ advocates for pollution prevention and chemical safety commended the government and tobacco control campaigners for the issuance of a historic policy requiring picture-based health warnings on tobacco products.

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition lauded the Department of Health, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, Health Justice and other groups for the much awaited regulatory action that environmentalists hope will not only curb tobacco use and addiction, but also cut disposal of cigarette butts, “the most littered toxic waste in the world.”

“We applaud the issuance of Administrative Order 2010-0013 which seeks to advance the people’s constitutional right to health and fulfill our country’s obligations under the the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” said Dr. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Secretary,
EcoWaste Coalition.

A.O. 2010-0013 will notify and caution consumers about the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke through the use of visible and full color graphic health information.

“The new policy, we hope, will be fully and effectively enforced to help arrest the rising prevalence of smoking, especially among our women and youth, and lead as well to cleaner surroundings,” said retired nurse Elsie Brandes De Veyra, Treasurer, EcoWaste Coalition.

Apart from saving lives, the EcoWaste Coalition sees graphic health warnings on tobacco use as necessary to curb and halt pollution from cigarette butts, which the group has branded as “the most littered toxic waste in the world.”

“The whole society will benefit from being informed about the terrible consequences of tobacco addiction that is killing our people and dirtying our environment with toxic smoke and cigarette butts,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited a 2009 report by the Ocean Conservancy which lists cigarette butts, plastic bags and food containers and wrappers as the top three most littered items polluting the marine environment. During the 2008 International Coastal Clean Up Day, some 55,814 pieces of cigarette butts and other smoking-related trash such as tobacco packs and wrappers, spent cigarette lighters and cigar tips were collected in the Philippines.

The uncaringly tossed cigarette butts usually end up in water bodies, polluting the water and killing birds, fish and other wildlife who mistake them for food.

Far from being benign, discarded butts contain some 4,000 left-over chemicals that can leach and harm the ecosystems, especially the marine life. Butts can take up to 15 years to break down, releasing the accrued chemicals and tars in the process.

According to the 2008 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, most smokers are unaware of the risks of tobacco use, its extreme addictiveness and the full range of health dangers associated with smoking.

“Expanded warnings encourage tobacco users to quit and young people not to start, and help gain public acceptance of other tobacco-control measures such as establishing smoke-free environments,” the report said.

The WHO reported that 100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century. If current trends continue, there will be up to one billion deaths in the 21st century. Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80% of those deaths will occur in the developing world, including the Philippines.