Legazpi City, Philippines has adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Blue Ribbon Campaign for tobacco control as its mayor on Friday vowed to sustain the strict enforcement of the local ordinance aimed at ridding its communities of cigarette smoke.
Blue Ribbon is WHO’s initiative in the Western Pacific Region to serve as mechanism for health advocates in implementing its WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC).
WHO FCTC is the first evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and represents a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances.
It was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic being facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects, including trade liberalization and direct foreign investment.
Other factors such as global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes have also contributed to the explosive increase in tobacco use, according to the WHO.
In launching of the campaign spearheaded by the provincial government of Albay here over the week, the WHO called on local governments to take life-saving actions against second-hand smoke, citing researches that even brief exposure can lead to heart attacks.
Classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research as a carcinogen, second-hand smoke has been the cause of death of more than 600,000 people each year, of which 168,000 or 28 percent are children.
WHO said that in the Western Pacific, exposure to second-hand smoke is generally high, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) which placed 36.9 percent of people who work in enclosed areas are exposed at their workplaces.
In China, it said 38 percent of non-smokers are exposed daily while in Vietnam, 49 percent of nonsmoking workers are exposed.
Youths also are highly exposed at home and in public places. In the Philippines, 64.8 percent were exposed in public places and 54.5 percent at home, according to a 2007 study.
In response to the WHO’s call, City Mayor Geraldine Rosal stressed that “we can’t rest on our laurels as the Hall of Famer in the Red Orchid Awards of the Department of Health (DOH) as we are devising adopting more ways to further strengthen our smoke-free program”.
“We are fully embracing the Blue Ribbon Campaign and supporting all other initiatives towards a smoke-free community as this is part of the city government’s commitment to public health,” Rosal said.
The city government was exalted to the Hall of Fame in the Red Orchid Awards this year after bagging the honors for three consecutive years starting in 2010 for its effective implementation of its anti-tobacco ordinance that bans smoking in all public places and conveyances that has resulted to the disappearance of smokers from the city’s public eyes.
Red Orchids Awards, the first of its kind in the world in giving out recognition to cities, municipalities, government offices and health facilities that are strictly enforcing tobacco control measures.
It was set up by the health department to attach importance to these government units and institutions that are putting strength in comprehensive efforts to implement a 100 percent tobacco-free environment.
The Blue Ribbon Campaign launch also marked the introduction of the Albay government’s Smoke-Free Merit Badge System designed according to Gov. Joey Salceda to further strengthen the partnership of groups and stakeholders in promoting smoke-free environment.
Salceda said Albay is the first province in the country to launch the Smoke-Free Merit Badge awarded specially to boys and girls scouts in recognition of their effort in supporting and implementing the province’s anti-smoking policies and advocacies.
About 20 boys and girl scouts in the province were awarded with the merit badge during the launching rites.
This city and the other Albay cities of Tabaco and Ligao as well as the municipality of Daraga were also cited for their promotion of 100 percent Smoke-Free Indoor environment along with 10 local business establishments.