The number of smokers in the country has decreased by 1.1 million from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million in 2015, the Department of Health reported, citing survey results.

According to the 2015 Philippines’ Global Adult Survey (GATS), the prevalence of tobacco use among Filipinos 15 years and above has dropped from 29.7 percent in 2009 to 23.8 percent in 2015, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters during a press conference held at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila.

“One million Filipinos have quit tobacco use — the biggest decline we have seen in Philippine history, and we can do more to stop the suffering caused by this epidemic,” Ubial said, pointing out that the reduction means at least a million Filipinos now have a lower risk of developing cancer, heart ailments, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

She further reported that the number of victims of second-hand smoke at home has dropped significantly from 54 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2015; and in the workplace from 32 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2015.

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The survey however revealed that exposure to second-hand smoke remains high at 86 percent in bars and nightclubs; and at 33.6 percent in restaurants.

Ubial said the Sin Tax Law or Republic Act 10351 has made cigarette products inaccessible to the public, especially the poor and the youth.

She also said that progress and achievement in tobacco control policies and advocacy should be pushed further by maintaining the unitary tax excise structure for tobacco products.(PNA)

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