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Bill sought hiking legal smoking age

MANILA, Philippines–The antismoking group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) on Sunday urged lawmakers to pass a measure raising the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 to cut the prevalence of smoking among Filipino youth.

It is well known, however, that those younger than 18 can obtain cigarettes despite the current law.

But NVAP president Emer Rojas said that passing a law raising the minimum legal sale age (MLSA) would save lives in the long run since the tobacco industry has been luring young people to start the smoking habit to take the place of those who had died or gotten sick from tobacco use.

“Raising the age of those given access to cigarettes will certainly be a good measure to further reduce smoking prevalence, especially among the youth,” Rojas said in a statement on Sunday.

Rojas cited a recent study by the US-based Institute of Medicine that showed that banning the sale of tobacco products to those under 21 would eventually slash the smoking rate by roughly 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.

He pointed out that among the countries that had raised the MLSA for cigarettes were Sri Lanka, Honduras, Kuwait, Cook Islands and several US states, including New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

He noted that in the Philippines, the MLSA was limited to the use of the word “minors,” which means those under 18 are prohibited access to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Based on a Social Weather Stations survey in the first quarter last year, Filipinos aged 18 to 24 account for 18 percent of the smoking population. Over 17 million Filipinos currently smoke tobacco.–Jocelyn R. Uy

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