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Philippines Youth Smoking Falls by 40.5%

Posted Feb 05 2013 7:10am

The intensified actions of different national government, local government and non-government agencies on developing and implementing tobacco control policies and programs in the Philippines may have contributed to the significant 40.5% decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use among the youth, ages 13 to 15, over a 4-year period from 46.2% in 2007 to 27.5% in 2011. 

This is the result of the recently released results of the fourth round of the Philippines Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted among high school students nationwide in 2011 by the Department of Health – National Epidemiology Center. Now that a revitalized Sin Tax law on tobacco products has started to be implemented, it is hoped that the prevalence of smoking among the youth will be further decreased. 
Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona reiterated that there can be no stronger argument on the harmful effects of smoking than its effects on the young population. He said that studies have shown that most young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke throughout adulthood. Smoking at a young age also reduces the rate of growth of the lungs and increases the risk of lung cancer and other non-communicable diseases. 
Aside from the dramatic decrease in prevalence of tobacco use among youth from 2007 to 2011, the prevalence of current use of any tobacco product and current cigarette smoking had dropped significantly from almost half (49.8%) to more than half (58.9%) respectively. The prevalence of current use of other tobacco product also decreased significantly by 24.7%. Current smokers are those who smoked cigarettes on one or more days in the past 30 days. It follows that the likelihood of never smokers to initiate smoking in the next year also decreased significantly by 22.8%. Never smoker is a person who had never tried or experimented with cigarette smoking, even one or two puffs. 
A significant increase in the percent of students who had been taught in class the dangers of smoking (2.2%) could also be a contributory factor in the decrease in tobacco use. Consistently, a significant increase in number of youth who think that the smoke from others is harmful to them is also evident in the survey results. A 13.8% increase from the previous survey is a good indicator that the students are aware of the ill-effects of secondhand smoke to them. 
This belief of students probably explains the significant decrease of 36.7% on number of students who have most or all friends smoking. Certainly, students who believed that secondhand smoke is harmful to their health stay away from those students who smoke. 
Results show that anti-tobacco advertisement is getting stronger and wider in scope. As compared to previous survey, the youth now have greater exposure to antismoking media messages (increase of 2.2%) than in pro-cigarette ads on billboards and print media which were decreased by 8.2% and 14.6% respectively. 
Moreover, there were significant decrease on proportions of students who have an object (or promotional item) with cigarette brand or logo on it (19.8%) and proportion of students who were offered free cigarettes by tobacco company representative (24.7%).
Ona said that the GYTS truly is an important resource for program managers, policy makers, anti-tobacco advocates and all those involved in tobacco control. Evidence-based decision making is crucial in policy directions, guidelines and program planning. The results of the survey will aid policy makers and implementers in assessing whether current efforts to curtail the preventable epidemic among the youth have been successful. 
(The Philippines GYTS was a school-based survey of students in year 1, 2, 3 and 4 conducted in 2011. A two-stage cluster sample design was used to produce representative data for the Philippines. At the first stage, schools were selected with probability proportional to enrolment size. At the second stage, classes were randomly selected and all students in selected classes were eligible to participate. A total of 6,044 students participated in the Philippines GYTS of which 3,708 were ages 13 to 15 years. The overall response rate of all students surveyed was 84.1%. 
Philippines GYTS includes data on prevalence of cigarette and other tobacco use as well as information on five determinants of tobacco use: access/availability and price, exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS), cessation, media and advertising, and school curriculum. These determinants are components the Philippines could include in a comprehensive tobacco control program.) 
ABOUT THE PHOTO: “Yosi Kadiri” (Smoking is Ugly) mascot is the anti-thesis of the ‘smoking is cool’ messages perpetuated by the tobacco industry in their advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The article and photo were published in Department of Health’s HEALTHbeat Magazine, January-February 2013 issue.
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