..MANILA, Philippines - Despite the existence of laws that limit smoking, male Filipino smokers are among the top smokers in the world occupying the ninth spot following India and China among others, data from the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation revealed on Tuesday.
The 2008 data was revealed by the Department of Health (DoH) as it sought to emphasize the urgency of the passage of the sin tax bill.
Other top male smokers in the world tobacco atlas ahead of the Philippines are Indonesia, the Russian Federation, USA, Japan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Male Chinese smokers took the top spot with 311,203,202, followed by India with 229,392,725; Indonesia, 53,392,709; the Russian Federation, 32,827,525; USA, 32,474,518; Bangladesh, 21,453,3412; Pakistan; 17,723, 216; and the Philippines on ninth spot with 17,634,512.
Meanwhile, female Filipino smokers are also a worsening lot as they climbed from the 26th spot in 2006 to 16th place in 2008.
Topping the list are American female smokers at 23,671,860; China, 13,532,810; India, 11,908,517; the Russian Federation, 10,189,820 and the Philippines, 3,848,908.
The Philippines' global adult tobacco survey in 2009 revealed that adult current smokers 15 years and above reached 17.3 million with 14.6 million males and 2.8 million females.
Meanwhile, one in five youth aged 13 to 15 years old currently smoke cigarettes.
The DOH said 23.9 million Filipinos are exposed to tobacco smoke daily with 66.7 percent of workers exposed to second hand smoke in worksites and 75.7 percent of workers are exposed to second hand smoke where there is no anti-smoking policy.
Moreover, almost 28 million Filipinos who used public transportation during the past 30 days were also exposed.
But what is more alarming is that 10 Filipinos die daily because of tobacco-related diseases.
In yesterday's forum, Luz B. Tagunicar, Supervising Health Program Officer of the National Center for Health Promotion cited the World Health Organization (WHO) that said non-communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases are the leading causes of deaths worldwide.
These illnesses include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
"Although government revenue from tobacco taxes is about P23 Billion annually, economic losses due to productivity and heath care costs of the top four tobacco related diseases: Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and stroke are conservatively estimated at P149 Billion annually," the 2008 Tobacco and Poverty study of the WHO said.
The study further said that one-third of the Philippine population is at risk of dying from debilitating diseases and tobacco use.
"The average Filipino household earning about P5,100 monthly spends approximately 2.6 percent of the household income on tobacco, which is more than they spend on education and heatlh which is 1.6 percent and health at 1.3 percent respectively," the study added.
The WHO recommends that tobacco excise tax must be at least 70 percent of the tobacco retail prices.
Non-government organization Health Justice recommends the removal of price classification freeze and a unitary system of taxation applied across all tobacco products. It also recommends a high tax rate of at
least P30 per box and a taxation rate that is pegged to inflation.