Survey: Number of smokers in Philippines decreased

THE percentage of tobacco smokers in the Philippines decreased from 22.7 percent (15.9 million) in 2015 to 18.5 percent (14.4 million) in 2021, according to the report on the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (Gats) released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

According to the report, 3.9 percent of those who were smoking in the past 12 months have been able to stop smoking, while 63.7 percent were planning or thinking of quitting.

Despite the economic constraints brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020, Filipino smokers’ average monthly expenditure for cigarettes was P1,273.9. In 2015, the average was at P678.4 per month.

In comparison to its neighbors in the Asean region, the Philippines ranks third in the lowest smoking prevalence, with Cambodia in the second spot with 16.9 percent, and Singapore with only 10.1 percent of smoking prevalence, which is the percentage of the population aged 15 years and over who currently use any type of cigarette.

Meanwhile, Tobacco Harm Reduction or THR, a concept which is described as providing alternatives or safer nicotine products for tobacco users who are struggling to quit smoking, is advocated by ASCRA Consulting Inc., an Asean-based research and consulting agency.

In a press conference, Joze Songsong, Project Coordinator of THR, said that THR is not promoting alternatives like vape and heated tobacco but is acknowledging the fact that smokers cannot quit smoking overnight.

“There is so much room to explore the various ways of mitigating the harm caused by tobacco, especially by providing less-risky alternatives to smokers who want to quit smoking but can’t do so,” Songsong said.

The Gats 2021 report cited that 68 percent of current smokers have attempted to quit smoking in the past 12 months when the survey was conducted because of the higher prices of cigarettes in the market.

Smoking has been identified as a leading risk factor in cardiovascular diseases, according to the Philippine Heart Association and World Health Organization. The latest data on mortality rates in the Philippines have identified ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in the country.