Two thousand public health campaigners picketed a large international tobacco fair in Manila on Thursday, condemning the event for enabling transnationals to push their deadly product in the Philippines and throughout Asia.
Protesters from groups including the Philippine Nurses Association and the Tobacco Control Alliance massed outside the ProTobEx/Inter-Tabac Asia 2012 event sporting shirts emblazoned with the slogans: "No deal with the tobacco industry" and "smoking kills."
They demanded that the government honour its commitments under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires signatories to completely ban tobacco promotion, advertising and sponsorship.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (TCAP) executive director Dr. Maricar Limpin said: "We really need to step up our campaign to protect the young and the poor in the country, which are the primary target of this event in looking to expand the tobacco market in the country."
A pack of cigarettes costs only about 50p in the Philippines and nearly one out of every three Filipinos aged 15 years or older smokes, according to a survey cited by the World Health Organisation.
Two former finance and two ex-health secretaries issued a statement calling on ministers to bump up taxes on tobacco products, saying that young people and the poor are encouraged to smoke and drink because cigarette and alcohol prices in the Philippines are so low.
They said that it will correct the current tobacco tax structure, which favours one company owned by US transnational Philip Morris that controls more than 90 percent of the market and which lacks a system to adjust the rates to inflation.
The bill is still pending in Congress.
Official inflation figures understate the real extent of rising costs, but even the government's own CPI scheme lays bare the ongoing misery for working people and those dependent on benefits.
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