Health and transport advocates on Friday warned the public against possible deceptive tactics of the tobacco industry to pursue their commercial interest amid the pandemic.
Health Reform advocate Dr. Anthony Leachon reiterated the warning of the World Health Organization that smoking is a risk factor to the coronavirus disease.
The WHO, Leachon said, also stressed that smokers and vapers are likely to be more vulnerable to viruses due to how these products are consumed and how they weaken the immune system of both users and non-users.
“Allowing the promotion and marketing of these products in this crisis will exacerbate the already heavy burden that the pandemic had caused to our health systems and economy,” added Leachon, a former adviser to the government’s National Action Plan against COVID-19.
He pointed out that the health pandemic has claimed more than half a million lives worldwide and 12 million people have been infected. In the Philippines alone, the number of those infected with COVID-19 has reached more than 50,000.
Meanwhile, Jaime Aguilar, secretary general of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Union, called on the government to uphold policies against tobacco product advertisements, promotion, and sponsorships for the health and safety of commuters and the general public. He said the public should be warned to denounce any marketing strategy from the industry as this is contrary to the existing laws and policies, including for those who in public transport.
Atty. Benedict Nisperos, legal counsel of the HealthJustice Philippines, said the insertion of TAPS inside public utility vehicles would be unlawful as the Tobacco Regulation Act has banned the outdoor advertisement of tobacco products since 2008.
“We also note that the WHO- Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which the Philippines is a signatory, has also prescribed a total ban of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products,” said Nisperos.
The coalition said that tobacco products remain the leading causes of preventable death worldwide, which is more significant given the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.