Cigarette smoking in Southeast Asia

cigarette smoking in southeast asia, where packs have graphic images of disease

Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Ellen


I hate cigarettes.

My wife quit smoking long before we got married and began our international, slow-travel lifestyle. But less than two years ago, in Croatia, she went through a heart-wrenching cancer diagnosis and radical treatment. Ellen continues to take anti-cancer drugs, get regular check-ups, and is healthy and cancer free today.

Now, I know that there are any number of factors that can cause or increase the likelihood of cancer in any given person. A whole host of lifestyle, environmental, and hereditary elements play a part. Even advanced medicine can’t pinpoint ’cause and effect’ in this realm.

But to me, cigarettes result in cancer. It’s easiest that way.

Cigarette smoking in Southeast Asia

One of my LEAST favorite things about our four-and-half years of roaming around the world has been seeing how many people still smoke cigarettes. Indeed, in parts of Europe, it seemed like half the population smoked. And look at Indonesia in the following graphic!

A graph by the World Health Orgainzation that shows high rates of cigarette smoking in Southeast Asia.

In Southeast Asia, where we have been for nearly 18 months, smoking is a problem. Some countries/cities still allow smoking in restaurants and malls. Thankfully, in the poorer, rural, less-touristy places we’ve visited, smokers seem less common. But as people in these developing areas increase their disposable income, smoking becomes a temptation.

I can’t help but notice how the Philippines (and some other SE Asian nations) have decided to discourage smoking — of at least warm of the potential consequences. Cigarette packaging here contains some of the most startling deterrent warnings I’ve seen anywhere.

cigarette smoking in southeast asia comes withgraphic disease warnings on packs like these from the Philippines

I’ve recently collected the discarded cigarette packages shown in this post from the area around our temporary ‘quarantine’ home in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines. Sadly, that means someone purchased and smoked the contents. Still, I can’t help but think – and hope – the message might get noticed.

Sure, warning labels are nothing new on cigarettes. And honestly, due to my extended absence, I don’t know what messaging the USA or individual states or other western countries currently require on cigarette packs. But these photos sure got my attention!

I do notice smokers (always young males) buying individual cigarettes from the small store next to our current home. They pay 10 Pesos each (20¢). They aren’t getting the graphic package or it’s message. But fortunately, as explained in this news article, the Philippines has decided to increase taxes on cigarettes every year for the foreseeable future. 

Personally, I think raising the cost is the most effective anti-smoking measure. Hopefully, that approach, combined with these gruesome warning pictures will encourage people to avoid or stop cigarette smoking.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.
Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Cigarette smoking in Southeast Asia.”

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