An anti-cancer and smoking non-governmental organization is suggesting that the state-run health insurer to subsidize professional help for people wanting to quit their smoking habit.

The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said including smoking cessation benefits will encourage more people to give up smoking, whether tobacco or non-tobacco products. 

NVAP President Emer Rojas, a cancer survivor himself, said, “It would be a big factor for those who want to quit if they know that they don’t have to shell out any money when they undergo smoking cessation programme,” said Mr Rojas.

The group is calling on PhilHealth to formulate a benefit package that will specifically cover these smoking cessation programmes.

On May 16, President Rodrigo Duterte finally signed the Executive Order No. 26 on nationwide smoking ban in public places, or the Establishment of Smoke-free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places.

“Finally, we now have a government policy that will lead the country closer than ever to seeing a smoke-free Philippines,” said Mr Rojas of the signing.

The PhilHealth smoking cessation programme could source its funds from taxes collected from the Sin Tax Law, according to the group. In 2015, revenue from the tax law reached Php 141.84 billion.

NVAP is also appealing to Local Government Units (LGUs) to create and set aside budget for their own local smoking cessation programme, given the number of smokers expected to quit.

On March, World Health Organization (WHO) and Department of Health (DOH) announced that the number of smokers in the country have significantly gone down from 17 million in 2009 to 15.9 million in 2015.

One of the control measures which led to the significantly to the decrease is the Tobacco Tax Law of 2012, also called an anti-cancer tax.

The figure is about 20 percent reduction on the numbers of smokers, which translates to 1 million Filipinos - the biggest decline in Philippine history, the agencies noted. And the drop can be further helped by ordinances, health warnings and advocacies of the health sector. MIMS

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