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Campaigning for a Smoke-Free Southeast Asia

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Economics & Business, Good News, Governance, Health, Youth

There are several initiatives in Southeast Asia which discourage young people from smoking. Among the groups leading the campaign is the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA [1]) whose objectives include the “developing and putting in place [of] effective tobacco control policies” in the region. Let us review some of the activities reported by SEATCA on their website.

Early this month, about 140 youth and students from Thailand held a protest rally [2] in front of the Bangkok office of Philip Morris International and demanded [3] the withdrawal of the lawsuit it filed against the Thailand government which issued an order requiring 85 percent pictorial warnings in cigarette packs. The 140 protesters symbolize 140 daily deaths from tobacco use in Thailand.

Several groups also issued an open letter [4] to Philip Morris about the issue:

You may need to ask yourself whether your effort to avoid compliance to Thai domestic law by filing the lawsuit against Ministry of Public Health, in order to increase sales volume of your products by attracting more children and youth to become your customers in the replacement of those who already died or in illness, is ethical practice.

Thai students warn against the dangers of smoking. Photo from Facebook of ASH Thailand [5]

Thai students warn against the dangers of smoking. Photo from Facebook of ASH Thailand

Anti-Smoking Protest in Bangkok [6]

Anti-Smoking Protest in Bangkok. Photo from Facebook of ASH Thailand

Meanwhile in Vietnam, it was reported two weeks ago that the government is already implementing the law requiring graphic health warnings [7] in cigarette packs.

Graphic Health Warning in Vietnam. Photo by Vinacosh/Ms.Doan Thu Huyen [7]

Graphic Health Warning in Vietnam. Photo by Vinacosh/Ms.Doan Thu Huyen

This music video features Mr. Trinh Thang Binh, a Vietnamese pop singer who composed a song [8] against smoking

In Cambodia, members of the Cambodian Red Cross youth teamed up [9] with city officials in launching a campaign “to warn cigarette retailers about violations in tobacco advertising and promotion in the form of small posters at points-of-sale.”

…youth carried signboards bearing the message “tobacco advertising in any form violates the government’s Sub-Decree” and “Thank you for Not Advertising Cigarettes.” The youth volunteers walked with local authorities to grocery stores and restaurants checking if cigarette advertisements existed. When cigarette advertisements were found, the youths stood in front of the store or restaurant with the signboards raised up.

In the Philippines, 14,000 people participated in the attempt to form [10] the world’s biggest human no-smoking logo at the Bicol University grounds in Legazpi City, Albay.

Human No-Smoking Logo in Albay, Philippines. Photo from @PhilippineStar [11]

Human No-Smoking Logo in Albay, Philippines. Photo from @PhilippineStar

Jessa Acuna is proud [12] of this event:

This is not only an attempt for a world record but a huge step to increase awareness among Filipinos and everybody around the world that smoking is the most preventable cause of diseases.

Gaining attention and nationwide coverage, officials are hoping to affect every Filipino. I am a proud Albayano myself and this is my own little way to support this campaign. Let this be not only just an event but a reminder.

Sensing the growing popularity of e-cigarettes in the country, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory [13] about the dangers of promoting the product:

Wittingly or unwittingly, the electronic cigarette promotes smoking among children and the youth. It makes them less fearful of hazards and risks of smoking. It is opposed to the Department of Health goal to stop cigarette smoking and tobacco use.

The public is advised NOT to smoke at all and NOT to use cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigarettes.

The Philippine Medical Association also warned [14] against the negative impact of using e-cigarettes:

…the use of e-cigs is not an ‘alternative lifestyle’ as claimed by its proponents and promoters but is actually a new and an ‘alternative vice’ which should not be taught to the public in general and our children in particular.

Our young ones can easily be enticed and duped into smoking by these novelty devices. Despite the reported smoking of our President he can still be a crucial factor in our fight against the evils of smoking in this country.