Press Release
May 31, 2023

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day
Pia shares WHO award with fellow advocates, credits parents for health advocacy

Senator Pia S. Cayetano expressed gratitude to those who helped guide her health advocacy, as she received the prestigious World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Award from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

Accepting the award in a ceremony held at the Senate, Cayetano shared that it was her parents - the late Senator 'Compañero' Rene Cayetano, and Sandra Schramm Cayetano - who first instilled in her the importance of healthy living.

Known for championing the Sin Tax Reform Act and Graphic Health Warning Law, Cayetano recalled that her father would always say three lines to her and her siblings when they were young: "no drugs, no smoking, and no alcohol."

"I had the pleasure of growing up in a very healthy environment. Our father lived a very active and healthy lifestyle, and so did my mom. My brothers and I were very much guided by those principles. So it was never difficult for me to take up this cause," she recounted in her acceptance speech.

At the same time, Cayetano thanked fellow advocates who guided her in fighting for health reforms and tobacco control measures through the years.

Among those she cited were: Dr. Maricar Limpin, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Philippines; Dr. Yul Dorotheo, executive director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA); Dr. Antonio Dans, professor at the University of Philippines College of Medicine; as well as the policy think-tank, Action for Economic Reforms (AER).

"This award was a surprise to me, but I am very happy to accept it among friends who made this opportunity for me to fight for a cause that also became very dear to me," Cayetano noted.

"It's an honor, but I consider it a happy burden also that I will carry, as I continue to speak up about what we need to do, what we need to ban, and what we need to regulate, in any opportunity that I get," added the senator, who vowed to continue monitoring compliance with restrictions on sin products, including cigarettes and vapes.

Fellow health advocates lauded the senator for the award and her accomplishments.

WHO Representative Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus of Timor Leste, who presented the award to Cayetano, said the recognition was given by the global health agency "in recognition of (the senator's) outstanding contribution to tobacco control."

"Cayetano's trailblazing efforts...set an unprecedented benchmark for public health advocates. This award from the WHO is indeed a well-deserved recognition!" noted Dr. Limpin, whose organization, ASH Philippines, nominated the senator for the awards.

Dr. Dorotheo, for his part, said: "Congratulations to Senator Pia Cayetano for receiving this year's World No Tobacco Day Award. Much deserved for her contributions to tobacco control and the struggle against the tobacco industry."

"Karangalan po namin sa HealthJustice Philippines at civil society organizations na makasama kayo sa iba't ibang adbokasiya ng tobacco control," said the non-government advocacy group, Health Justice.

Meanwhile, in a website post, the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office wrote: "The senator's work has focused on preserving the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration and reducing the affordability and accessibility (for youths) of tobacco products."

In response, Cayetano said that the challenge to advocates now is to ensure that current policies on smoking and vaping are strictly enforced and constantly reviewed to protect the people, especially the youth.

"The future belongs to our youth. And they can only have a future that we carve out for them now. We want to build a strong, healthy foundation for our youth, so that when they become parents, and grandparents, they will do the same," she stressed.

To note, Cayetano is the only Filipino and individual chosen by WHO among this year's WNTD recipients in the Western Pacific. Her fellow awardees in the region are all national government agencies, namely: Cambodia's Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport; the Cultural and Social Committee of the National Assembly of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Vanuatu's Ministry of Health.

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