Philippines warned of new tobacco ads targeting youth

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

THE Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) on Thursday warned the Philippines against being the new target of Philip Morris International (PMI) marketing campaign with an aim to find "replacement smokers" among the youth.

In a press conference, SEATCA Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Mary Assunta said their recent finding showing PMI looking to use its Marlboro brand to recruit young new smokers.

"No matter what they say like they do not target the young people… they need the children as 'replacement smokers' for them to continue making profit," said Assunta.

Proof of this, she said, are the current presence of billboards in retail stores showing images of young people engaging in activities like snowboarding, mountain biking, partying, and playing music with an accompanying text, such as, "Maybe I Will Take the Lead. Don’t be a Maybe. Be Marlboro."

Assunta said tobacco manufacturers are aware that there are about 17 million smokers in the Philippines.

"The Philippines and Indonesia are cash cows for Philip Morris because of the existing number of smokers and growing smoking population," said Assunta.

According to the 2007 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS), 22.7 percent of 13-15 year-olds consume tobacco in the Philippines.

For its part, Health Justice Philippines said the findings only show the need for the Philippine government to boost its law against tobacco advertising.

Health Justice Philippines managing director Irene Patricia Reyes said the present provisions of Republic Act 9211is not enough to dissuade the public from smoking, especially the young people.

"The best thing to do is really push for a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement," said Reyes.

She noted how the country only has a partial ban in place as provided in RA 9211 as it allows point-of-sale advertisements.

"Tobacco advertising is banned in most media except at points-of-sale and this presents a loophole," she said.

Reyes noted that there are almost 700,000 tobacco retail outlets around the country, which makes point-of-sale advertisement sensible for the tobacco industry. (HDT/Sunnex)

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