By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) assured that it will continue to initiate programs and activities that would strengthen its tobacco control campaign.
DepEd has conducted three batches of WHO MPOWER Training for Regional and Schools Division Tobacco Control Coordinators since May this year in line with the celebration of the National No Smoking Month in June.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the observance of the National No Smoking Month – simultaneous with the opening of classes— is an “opportune time to ensure that measures are in place to protect our learners and personnel from the harms of tobacco, and to strengthen their health-promoting behaviors such as embracing a tobacco-free lifestyle.”
The MPOWER, a policy package introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO), stands for six policies based on the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) proven to reverse the tobacco epidemic and prevent millions of tobacco-related deaths: (1) Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; (2) Protect people from tobacco smoke; (3) Offer help to quit tobacco use; (4) Warn about the dangers of tobacco; (5) Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; and (6) Raise taxes on tobacco.
Briones noted that the recently concluded training aims to “build the capacity of our Tobacco Control Coordinators in effectively implementing and promoting evidence-based tobacco control measures in our schools and offices.”
Meanwhile, the WHO congratulated DepEd for “advancing the implementation” of the FCTC in the Philippines. Dr. Florante Trinidad, National Officer for the Tobacco-Free Initiative of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific-Office of the WHO Representative in the Philippines said that the MPOWER training would ensure that DepEd’s “comprehensive tobacco control policy would be better appreciated at the grassroots level and implemented accordingly.”
Trinidad also served as one of the resource persons for the training.
In DepEd Order (DO) No. 48, s. 2016 or the Department’s comprehensive tobacco control policy was issued to ensure the “strict implementation of bans such as the absolute smoking ban in schools and DepEd offices, the ban on the sale and advertisement of tobacco products in and within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of schools, and the ban on tobacco sponsorships and other forms of unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry.”
The recently-concluded trainings, DepEd said, also helped prepare the participants in vying for the Red Orchid Awards, the Department of Health’s (DOH) search for 100% tobacco-free environments, the indicators of which were based on the WHO MPOWER policy package.
The training was held in Iloilo City, which was recently recognized by the WHO as one of the recipients of the World No Tobacco Day Awards 2019 for its contribution to tobacco control. The Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force also presented its good practices in tobacco control during the training.
Likewise, the Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) Philippines likewise commended DepEd for the initiative.
ASH Philippines Executive Director Dr. Ma. Encarnita Limpin – who also served as a resource person, — said that ASH Philippines will continue this partnership with DepEd, along with “exploring common areas of interests—particularly in research, enforcement, and community participation—to protect all school-age youth from being targeted by tobacco marketing tactics, including those that promote the use of electronic cigarettes.”
Aside from Trinidad and Limpin, other resource persons for the training were from the Civil Service Commission, local institutions such as the Western Visayas State University and the Western Visayas Medical Center, civil society organizations such as Action for Economic Reforms, and international organizations such as Vital Strategies, and the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union).