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Health Advocates call on LGUs to impose ban on cigarettes amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

30 Mar 2020

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Philippines and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) call on all local government across the country to implement a ban on selling and purchasing cigarettes amid the rising cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.


“We urge our local chief executives to issue an executive order banning the sale and purchase of cigarettes especially in retail stores as an added measure to protect the people from COVID-19 virus as there is growing evidence that people who smoke are likely to be more severely impacted by COVID-19,” said ASH Philippines Executive Director and Pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin.


She added, “We have observed that a vast majority of stores across the country would still sell cigarettes even if the information on smoking and the risk of getting COVID-19 has already been highlighted. Most local chief executives have already issued orders on liquor ban and we are expecting that they would have included cigarettes as well. We are counting on our local chief executives to help us in this cause as this enhanced community quarantine is a perfect opportunity for smokers to quit and non-smokers not to smoke.”


This is after the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that smoking may increase the risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19 due to compromised lung health. Tobacco weakens the respiratory system and destroys some of the lung's natural defense mechanisms making smokers more vulnerable to contagious diseases.


WHO also warned that the act of smoking also greatly increases the chance of contracting the virus as possibly contaminated fingers and cigarettes are in contact with the lips which can transmit the virus from hand to mouth. Sharing tobacco products can also transmit the virus between people.


"Smoking compromises the immune system making it harder to fight infection. Therefore, smokers are more likely to contract the virus compared to non-smokers, and they are more vulnerable to developing severe symptoms when exposed to the disease. We also need to urge people to quit smoking during times like this as we cannot afford to have more people getting sick," Limpin furthered.


According to Limpin, banning the sale and purchase of cigarettes in stores and groceries during the enhanced quarantine period is an effective measure to curb smoking. Distribution of cigarettes should be temporarily prohibited from establishments and individuals should be prohibited from smoking in any public place during the ban.


Yesterday, the town of General Luna in Quezon Province has already disallowed the sale and purchase of cigarettes starting Monday, March 30, 2019, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

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