ILOILO City – For its noteworthy efforts on tobacco control, the city government received a prestigious award from no less than World Health Organization (WHO).
Iloilo City was given the “World No Tobacco Day Award,” along with four other awardees in the Western Pacific region.
Among the other awardees were the Xi’an Municipal People’s Government, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Guam Non-Communicable Disease Consortium Tobacco Control Action Team, and Niue Ministry of Social Services.
The WHO lauded the city government for undertaking a multi-pronged approach against tobacco use.
The international health body sees that the intensive “quit campaign” (smoking cessation services) at health centers and stronger measures to protect minors from smoking helped reduce the tobacco use rate in the city.
It also commended the smoking cessation clinic at city hall under the City Health Office.
All district health centers in the city also offer counseling for smokers who want to quit.
“The government prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors as well as near schools and other places frequented by minors. It has also enacted bans on vaping and shisha and on establishing designated smoking areas. An additional tax was introduced for the sale of cigarettes alongside increased penalties for violations,” said WHO in its statement pertaining to the award.
It added: “The government also implemented a Non-Smoker Preferential Policy to inform the hiring of city government employees.”
For his part, Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Taskforce (ICAST) director Iñigo Garingalao said: “[The award] was given not only based on the number of people caught smoking…This recognition is also based on our legislations, what we are doing to protect our children against smoking just like having school forums, and storytelling for kids.”
ICAST apprehended 7,806 smoking violators from January to December last year, higher than the 5,714 violators caught in 2017.
“I’m delighted to see the strong action our awardees are taking to control tobacco – from higher taxes to quit programs to smoke-free areas. The results of their activities are even more encouraging: smoking rates are decreasing in many of these places, as are diseases caused by tobacco such as lung cancer,” said WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai.
Kasai has urged all government organizations, businesses, and communities “to take strong steps to control tobacco and foster healthier, more productive populations.”
“We know what we need to do to reduce tobacco use and help smokers quit, and these organizations are setting a stellar example,” he said.
The World No Tobacco Day is celebrated every May 31. It aims to raise awareness on the negative impact of tobacco use, to advocate effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption, and to engage stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control. (With a report from Iloilo City Pio/PN)