UN writes to Aquino over Philippines tobacco fair

The United Nations has expressed concern that the Philippines could encourage smoking by hosting one of the world's biggest tobacco trade shows, a health official said Tuesday.

UN agencies in the Philippines have written to President Benigno Aquino citing Manila's treaty pledge to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, World Health Organisation senior health adviser Eigil Sorensen said.

The ProTobEx Asia show, described on its website as featuring the latest innovations in processing, cigarette making and packaging, will be held at an indoor exhibition hall in the Pasay district of Manila from March 20-22.

"It's important that there is no official endorsement by the government of the tobacco event," Sorensen told AFP.

He praised the steps being taken by the Philippine government to curb tobacco use but said more needs to be done.

Sorensen noted that it was the second straight year that the Philippines was hosting the annual tobacco fair, which the WHO says gathers some of the world's biggest tobacco manufacturers and advertisers.

"If there is a government endorsement, it might be seen as a mixed signal," he added.

Sorensen took note of the significant reduction in the number of Filipino youth smokers, to one in 10 in 2011 compared to two in 10 four years earlier.

Last year the legislature passed a new law substantially raising tobacco taxes to help finance the government's health care programme.

However, Sorensen said 14 million Filipinos out of the nearly 100 million population smoked daily, leading to 10 deaths by the hour from tobacco-related diseases.

"Despite the significant decrease in the prevalence of smoking among youths 13 to 15 years old, the tobacco epidemic in the country remains a serious issue," Sorensen added.

"The Philippines has a vibrant tobacco industry. Tobacco has played, and continues to play, an important role in the domestic economy, earning millions of dollars for the country," the ProTobEx site said of the venue selection.

It praised the host city for lifting its blanket ban on indoor smoking at the trade show venue.

Organisers said the fair is not open to the general public or media.

Aquino spokesman Ricky Carandang did not immediately reply to the AFP's request for comment, while city officials were unavailable for comment.

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future 3 hours ago
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • 919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day 4 hours ago
    919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day

    We've brought you the drive video of the $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder -- an 887-hp hybrid supercar with two electric motors working in harmony with a big 4.6-liter V-8. But how about this? Porsche's hybrid Le Mans racer -- the 919 Hybrid, sent to us by Kevin Leech. Get on board with electrification, folks. Because it's taking over the world.

  • Watch a man drive his three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway 10 hours ago
    Watch a man drive his three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway

    Some things in life are hard to explain, like why a dentist insists on asking you questions when you clearly can't respond. Or why we call pants "a pair" even though it's just one. Or how about this puzzler: Why a person would drive their Mustang along a Texas highway despite it missing a wheel? Life is full of little mysteries, I guess.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

  • Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name
    Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name

    General Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, has clarified that he had not apologised for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who had been involved in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing in Singapore.