The Department of Health (DOH) and more than 15 leaders from various sectors signed a manifesto of support for comprehensive public policies enabling, sustaining, and defending smoke-free and vape-free environments.

The signatories, who were also members and allies of the Philippine Smoke-Free Movement (PSFM), signed the pledge during PSFM’s 3rd anniversary celebration in Quezon City on December 7, 2023.

“We believe that promoting comprehensive and sustainable smoke-free and vape-free environments will maximize the protection of our people’s health, particularly the youth, and aid the government by reducing the socio-economic costs attributed to smoking and vaping. These harmful vices are a sustainable development concern that must be addressed by coherent actions across various sectors of society,” the manifesto read.

The signatories also appealed for the urgent passage of existing proposals at the national and local levels, including House Bill 5315, otherwise known as the Smoke-Free Bill, which intends to strengthen Republic Act No. 9211 or the “Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.”

Among the measures that the movement hopes to introduce are allocating at least 3% of the local health budget to tobacco-control programs for sustainability; expanding smoking and vaping ban in public places and workplaces; removing indoor designated smoking areas; providing awards to complaint local government units (LGUs) and other units; and creating a task force at the LGU levels to lead the implementation of tobacco-control programs.

The manifesto also warned the legislators against the manipulative practices of tobacco companies to delay, weaken, or scrap pro-people policies either directly or through institutions with undisclosed industry links. They underscored the industry’s persistent maneuver in development agendas by conducting dubious corporate social responsibility activities to frame themselves as socially and environmentally responsible organizations. They asked lawmakers to discard industry-sponsored studies that aim to encourage skepticism into wildly validated harms of tobacco products.

Upon signing, DOH Representative and Head of Health Promotion Policy, Planning, Standards and Research Rodley Carza stressed the department’s commitment to decreasing the prevalence of tobacco and vape use, reducing secondhand smoke and emission exposure, and increasing the uptake of smoking and vaping cessation services for adults and youth. He mentioned that they had issued a policy on EVALI (e-cigarette and vaping product use associated lung injury) to aid our health workforce in identifying potential cases and ensuring treatment. He also relayed the DOH’s undertaking to fortify systems to capture local evidence better and inform ways forward.

Meanwhile, Kalinga Partylist Representative Irene Gay Saulog, author of HB 5315, conveyed her support for the movement’s members and allies through a written statement.

“Our journey in Congress has been challenging, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to address the detrimental effects of smoking and vaping. We have engaged in constructive debates, collaborated with fellow legislators, and listened to the concerns and insights of stakeholders. It is through these efforts that we are building strong foundations for a smoke-free Philippines. As we commemorate three years of genuine smoke-free advocacy, let us celebrate our achievements while keeping our focus on the work that lies ahead. Our journey for a smoke-free Philippines requires continued collaboration, determination, and unwavering support of both the government and the populace. Together, we can create a healthier and brighter future for all Filipinos,” said Rep. Saulog.