The increasing number of Filipino girls and women smoking cigarettes is becoming an alarming statistic for the country. In a 2009 study by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), the Philippines ranked the highest in the survey of girls and young women who have ever smoked a cigarette. The study also showed a significant increase in smoking among girls 13-15 years old.
This rise of female smokers is brought about by the tobacco industry’s emerging strategies to target women to replace the numbers of smokers who have already died or quit the habit. The strategy involves portraying cigarette smoking as glamorous, liberating, and slimming.
Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, the National Coordinator of WomanHealth Philippines, said "people should realize that women compared to men are more adversely affected by cigarette smoking. Given the same environmental preconditions, women are more likely to develop lung cancer and die because of smoking due to several genetic and hormonal factors."
Lung cancer has been found to be the leading cancer killer among women. Also, cardio-vascular diseases rank as the top cause of female deaths in the country and at least one out of every five deaths from these diseases can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Other than these, there are also several sex-specific illnesses that hit women, specifically on reproductive health and bone density.
"Further, these health impacts would translate to more social and economic losses for the country given the various economic, reproductive, and community roles of women in society. Avoidable premature deaths, like those caused by cigarette smoking, hinder the country’s economic development," Nemenzo added.
In a recent survey1 conducted by the University of the Philippines Communication Research Society, it was found that 20.5% of the 435 public high school students who participated in the study are females. Among these female high school smokers, 57.3% consume cigarettes daily and 94.3% can afford high-priced brands. These are evidence that the affordability and availability of cigarettes to the youth, particularly to girls, are contributing largely to the prevalence of their cigarette smoking. It was also found that if cigarettes will be priced at P5 per stick, 60% of the sample population will quit smoking.
Given these data, tobacco tax reforms, which include increasing the excise tax on cigarettes per pack, will be an effective means to curb the prevalence of smoking among the youth, particularly of young women. Atty. Irene Reyes, HealthJustice Philippines