Absurdity at its worst

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

Awards bring to mind honor, prestige and ostensibly being the best. But some exist for the sheer ridiculousness of it.

Take the case of the Dirty Ashtray Award presented by the Global Alliance on Tobacco Control (GATC), an NGO which claims to be the leading civil society advocacy watchdog of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global tobacco control accord under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and governed by the Conference of the Parties (COP). The Philippines has been a party to the WHO FCTC since 2005.

It sounds well and good until one gets to the heart of their award-giving premise. It’s simple: if a COP party or member-country sticks to the agenda and closely aligns itself with the WHO FCTC’s proposed policies, they are given an Orchid Award. On the other hand, if a country ventures to speak about tobacco as a positive force economically or attempts to present proven science on less harmful alternatives to smoking, then they are given the odious-sounding Dirty Ashtray Award.

There is, of course, no humor to be found in charting declining smoking rates and deaths from tobacco-related illnesses. According to Tobacco Atlas, there are more than a billion smokers worldwide today with healthcare costs totaling nearly $2 billion annually. Those numbers are nothing to laugh about.

The Dirty Ashtray’s most-awarded country is Japan, an eight-time awardee. This despite the fact that Japan has made significant strides in reducing smoking prevalence, from 82.3 percent in 1965 to 27.8 percent in 2018 for men over 20 years old, and from 16.5 percent in 1965 to 8.7 percent in 2018 for women. Lower cigarette sales in Japan followed the introduction of heated tobacco products in the Japanese market, with smokers recognizing the lower risk profile of novel nicotine alternatives and choosing to switch.

Even the Philippines, a four-time Dirty Ashtray (dis)honoree and the first Asian country to enact a legislation that separately treats tobacco products that combust from those that are smoke-free, has reduced its own smoking rates from 23.5 percent in 2001 to 19.5 percent in 2021.

Meanwhile, countries like Thailand and India have received multiple GATC Orchid Awards and hailed as leaders in tobacco control efforts despite the fact that in India, smoking prevalence stands at 10.7 percent and the number of smokers has even risen from 107 million in 2000 to 117 million in 2020. Thailand, which has banned smoke-free alternatives like vapes and e-cigarettes, has a 19.1 percent smoking prevalence rate, with the number of smokers dropping a paltry one million over a span of 20 years.

The true absurdity of the Dirty Ashtray Award lies in its blatant disregard for the sovereignty of governments, shaming countries, belittling the independence of their policy-making procedures. The award implies a one-size-fits-all approach to a complex issue and, most egregiously, has stuck its figurative fingers in its ears when it comes to any mention of ‘harm reduction strategies’ — a phrase that is enshrined in the FCTC.

Unlike the WHO FCTC, the Philippines is no laggard in recognizing the importance of proven scientific consensus in crafting public health policies. Harm reduction based on different risk profiles is at the core of Republic Act 11900 or the Vape Law. This landmark legislation, hailed by health experts and consumer-centric groups worldwide, draws a clear line between vapes, e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches and heated tobacco products by recognizing that these bring less harm to smokers than cigarettes.

So where is the recognition for countries that have made real progress in reducing smoking rates among its population? Where’s the honor for those that have acknowledged that we need innovative products to truly reduce tobacco harm?

Complacent no more?

The Senate, reluctant to consider charter amendments for the past 36 years, has found itself grappling with the urgent need for constitutional reform following an unprecedented people-driven movement that threatens to render the Senate obsolete or irrelevant.

The People’s Initiative (PI) is not just a wake-up call; it is a roaring alarm. The rapid and aggressive signature drive meant to amend the 1987 Constitution has left senators with no choice but to respond.

The Resolution of Both Houses 6 now proposes amendments to certain economic provisions of the charter. This move, albeit reactive, signifies the Senate’s acknowledgment of the urgent need for change.

Some say that the PI, a tool of last resort, indicates a deep-seated frustration with the political status quo.

Now’s the chance for our senators to realign themselves with the public pulse and demonstrate a renewed commitment to governance that reflects the aspirations of the Filipino people. The PI challenges the Senate to move beyond complacency and embrace a more progressive, responsive approach to governance. The future of the Senate, and indeed the trajectory of Philippine politics, may well hinge on how this body responds to the clarion call for change echoed by the people it serves.

Not so hidden agenda

DDB Group Philippines has won the highly coveted “Agency of the Year” title at the recently concluded 59th Anvil Awards of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.

The agency group received a total of 19 trophies from its entry submissions this year, comprising the group’s impactful campaigns with some of its valued client partners, namely, Mang Inasal Philippines, Jollibee Philippines, PepsiCo Philippines, PLDT and Smart and Asian Hospital.

Mang Inasal Philippines, the Philippines’ grill expert, swept five Anvils for its campaigns with DDB Group’s flagship creative agency, DDB Philippines (DDB PHL). These include a Gold Anvil for Best Use of Social Media for the following campaigns: Mang Inasal Nation Facebook Group, #MangInasalMOMents Mother’s Day Celebration, and #ILoveMangInasal Facebook Page Content Revamp.

The Asian Hospital and Medical Center’s campaign with DDB PHL dubbed “Alagang Deserve, Alagang Sulit” also won a Gold Anvil for Best Use of Social Media, and three Silver Anvils for Marketing and Brand Communication, Corporate Identity/Corporate Branding Program, and Best Use of Influencer Marketing for PR Programs.

Jollibee’s various campaigns with DDB Group’s integrated PR solutions company Ripple8 also won four Anvils under the PR Programs category. These include a Gold Anvil for Marketing and Brand Communication.

PepsiCo Philippines and DDB MNL’s “Sting’s Energy-Sarap Na Humahataw” (Sting Hataw) Campaign also bagged two Silver Anvils for Best Use of Digital and Best Use of Influencer Marketing under the PR Programs category.

Meanwhile, PLDT and Smart’s campaign with DDB MNL titled “Visionaries: Going Further Together with PLDT Enterprise” also won a Silver Anvil under PR Programs-Marketing and Brand Communication category. The partnership with Tribal DDB for PLDT Home’s New Fiber Unli All Plans Launch Campaign won two Silver Anvils for Marketing and Brand Communication as well as Best Use of Digital under PR Programs.

DDB Group Philippines chairman and CEO Gil Chua said that the Anvil recognitions are a testament to the passion and dedication of both its client and agency teams to work together and come up with impactful campaigns that deliver excellent results.

The Anvil Awards recognizes the best PR campaigns and tools that are implemented and executed by the country’s biggest companies, public relations agencies, organizations, and institutions.



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