July 29, 2021 – Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones on Wednesday appealed to legislators and policymakers to institutionalize strong and comprehensive tobacco control policies in support of the promotion of healthy choices among Filipinos learners.

“We are using all available platforms to appeal to our legislators, decision-makers, and influencers to help us in protecting the welfare of our learners by institutionalizing policies and creating an environment that is supportive of their health-promoting choices,” Secretary Briones said during the Philippine Smoke-free Movement Champions’ Conference.

The education chief mentioned that such policies are needed to complement DepEd’s ongoing efforts to keep schools smoke-free and to educate learners about the ill effects of tobacco use.

“Our schools have always been smoke-free. And we do this not only to protect our learners from second-hand smoke, but also from situations that normalize tobacco use to make it appealing to them,” she said. “But schools can only do so much. Which environments our learners are exposed to when they are not in school also have a great influence on their decisions as to whether to give in to or to reject the temptation to get into smoking,” she added.

With the theme “Building and Celebrating Tobacco Control Champions: Promoting, Defending, and Institutionalizing Smoke-Free Environment Policies,” the conference was organized to campaign for the passage of a comprehensive smoke-free environments law in the 18th Congress.

“We are in a very strategic time to have this legislative measure passed, especially now that we have a President who has repeatedly and publicly expressed support for tobacco control,” she emphasized.

Sec. Briones who said she was representing the millions of Filipino learners in her message noted that the future of the youth is at stake as they are targeted by the tobacco industry to be its consumers.

“As repeatedly mentioned by the World Health Organization, the youth are being targeted by the tobacco industry to be their next generation of consumers. Through strong and comprehensive tobacco control policies such as the measures we are advocating today, we can win this battle,” Briones shared.

“What we are really talking about are the dreams of our youth that can only be achieved if they grow up healthy and free from the harms of tobacco use,” she added.

Meanwhile, Angela Tibay, President of the Regional Federation of Supreme Student Governments-Cordillera Administrative Region, encouraged the youth not to partake in smoking activities.

“I encourage the youth to stop smoking because of its bad effects. ‘Wag magpapaniwala sa mapanlinlang na tobacco industries, dahil wala silang magandang dulot at wala silang pakialam sa ating kalusugan,” Tibay said.

The conference was organized by the Social Watch Philippines (SWP) in partnership with DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH), together with the rest of the Philippine Smoke-Free Movement (PSFM).

SWP is a non-government organization dedicated to advancing pro-health advocacies such as the Universal Health Care and tax increases on tobacco products and campaigning for tobacco-control policies.  The Department recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with SWP to become an institutional partner of the PSFM.

Watch the Secretary’s message here.