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‘Tobacco CSRs are a distraction to the real cost of smoking’ – law group

Aside from killing 117,000 Filipinos every year due to cigarettes and second-hand smoke, tobacco-related healthcare costs took away 65.80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012.

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Every year, the country loses at least 260 billion pesos due to tobacco-related healthcare cost and productivity losses, according to law group ImagineLaw, citing data from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

“The tobacco industry is an economic liability,” said Atty. Anna Bueno, ImagineLaw policy associate. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and donations from tobacco companies are insignificant compared to the real costs of smoking,” she added.

Aside from killing 117,000 Filipinos every year due to cigarettes and second-hand smoke, tobacco-related healthcare costs took away 65.80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012, according to the law group, citing the same report.

While the country loses at least 260 billion pesos yearly due to tobacco-related healthcare costs, taxes collected from cigarettes amounted to  P148.45 billion in 2020, according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Despite these alarming numbers, the tobacco industry continues to sell and market a product that kills half of its users, according to the law group. “In the time of a pandemic where it has been shown that smokers are at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes, tobacco companies’ CSR activities are nothing but distractions and a way to relax tobacco control policies,” Atty. Bueno also said.

Tobacco-related illnesses translate to financial losses in the workforce, according to the law group. “These illnesses force an individual to temporarily or permanently stop going to work, contributing to major losses in human productivity,” the lawyer said.

“The Philippines is losing so much to the tobacco industry. We are not only talking about billions of pesos, we are also losing dreams and aspirations. Imagine a father, who has just entered the productive years of his life, falling victim to a lung disease caused by smoking,” she said. “You mourn the life of the father, but the burden of his death also affects a whole family in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.”

”No act of public relations or PR can mask the reality that tobacco is dangerous and deadly,” ImagineLaw emphasized. “The tobacco industry’s donations are nothing compared to the amount of resources it depletes and the number of lives it claims.”

“Instead of falling into the PR trap of cigarette companies, the government should boost its anti-smoking campaigns and strengthen smoking cessation programs,” urged Atty. Bueno. “The government should also continue to reject any move by the tobacco companies and their fronts to relax tobacco control policies,” she added.

The law group declared that tobacco companies should be held liable by the government for making smokers and secondhand smokers more susceptible to severe COVID-19 symptoms. “Tobacco companies put public health at risk, there’s no denying that,” added Atty. Bueno.

“Now, more than ever, the government needs to remain steadfast against moves by the tobacco industry to interfere with our public health policies. These policies should be upheld and their implementation strengthened. What we urgently need is a stronger public health system, not  tactical donations that are only meant to take away our resources and lives,” she concluded.

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NewsMakers

FWD partners with GCash to provide protection against BIG 3 critical illnesses

FWD Life Insurance (FWD Philippines) has partnered with GCash, the Philippines’ leading finance super app and biggest cashless ecosystem, to encourage more Filipinos to get coverage against the three major critical illnesses in the country.

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FWD Life Insurance (FWD Philippines) has partnered with GCash, the Philippines’ leading finance super app and biggest cashless ecosystem, to encourage more Filipinos to get coverage against the three major critical illnesses in the country.

To make health protection easily accessible, FWD’s BIG 3 Critical Illness Insurance is now available for purchase by GCash users through its GInsure feature for as low as PhP298 per year.“We’re optimistic that this seamless and innovative partnership with GCash can inspire and drive more young Filipinos to become protected,” says FWD Philippines Chief Partnership Officer Irene Andas during the contract signing.

Through this partnership, FWD Philippines aims to foster a sense of trust and reliability among Filipino digital natives who primarily use GCash for their financial needs and provide accessible protection against the most critical illnesses.

Bridging the insurance gap with affordable and accessible health coverage

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the leading causes of death for Filipinos in 2023 are heart attack (19.3%), cancer (10.4%), and stroke (10.3%).

This is significantly more concerning as a nationwide survey reveals that three out of five Filipinos lack medical insurance, indicating that most Filipinos do not get medical insurance primarily because they can’t afford it (63%). Meanwhile, 30% of Filipinos rely on government’s health programs, 22% are deterred by the limited coverage and exclusions, and 15% are not aware or don’t fully understand the available insurance options.

“Most young Filipinos today do not have protection against these illnesses, especially since they can happen unexpectedly,” shares FWD Philippines Chief Marketing and Digital Business Officer Roche Vandenberghe. “However, we hope that by making this plan available via GCash, we can bridge the protection gap and make it easier for them to become prepared for such challenges.”

GCash Vice President and Group Head of New Businesses Winsley Bangit also expressed high hopes for the partnership. “We share FWD’s commitment to help more Filipinos especially when it comes to health and financial protection,” says Mr. Bangit. “With just a few taps, one can now get year-long protection against these top three illnesses.”

Easy cover for heart attack, cancer, and stroke

BIG 3 Critical Illness Insurance offers health coverage that is easy on the pocket, easy to buy, and easy to claim against the top three critical illnesses: heart attack, stroke, and early- to late-stage cancer.

Once availed, policyholders will be receiving exclusive e-gift vouchers worth PhP100 via Giftaway and claim 20 days after purchasing the policy. Customers may avail themselves of multiple policies with critical illness coverage of up to a maximum of PhP2 million.

Vandenberghe further emphasizes that this collaboration with GCash is a milestone for FWD as it celebrates its 10th year in the Philippines in 2024. “FWD continues to contribute to nation-building by empowering the next generation with more affordable insurance and protecting themselves and their loved ones.”

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Pru Life UK agents, customers, executives celebrate Year of the Wood Dragon

The insurer maintains its top position in New Business Annual Premium Equivalent & total Premium Income from Variable Life Insurance products according to the Insurance Commission’s Life Insurance Sector Quarterly Statistics for Q3 2023.

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With a strengthened commitment to providing better financial protection for every Filipino, Pru Life UK celebrates the start of the Year of the Wood Dragon. Over 200 Pru Life UK leaders, agents, clients, and employees joined and wished everyone PRU Love during the festivities held at the heart of its Escolta branch in Binondo Manila.

The insurer maintains its top position in New Business Annual Premium Equivalent & total Premium Income from Variable Life Insurance products according to the Insurance Commission’s Life Insurance Sector Quarterly Statistics for Q3 2023.

Pru Life UK’s products are made accessible through its over 42,000 digitally-empowered agency workforce and like-minded partners.

The Company recently launched PRULove for Life – an affordable, limited-pay, whole-life participating plan for as low as Php 87 per day* with lifetime coverage up to age 100 and flexible payment terms of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years to pay. To know more about PRULove for Life, talk to your Pru Life UK agent today or visit Pru Life UK’s website.

Pru Life UK is also committed to driving up financial awareness, literacy, and inclusion in the country by leading industry discussions and programs for the community. Its PRUBabies campaign seeks to protect 175,000 newborns with free insurance coverage against select infectious diseases such as Dengue, Typhoid, Measles, and Malaria.

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Eating too much protein is bad for your arteries, and this amino acid is to blame

Consuming over 22% of dietary calories from protein can lead to increased activation of immune cells that play a role in atherosclerotic plaque formation, driving the disease risk.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers discovered a molecular mechanism by which excessive dietary protein could increase atherosclerosis risk. The findings were published in Nature Metabolism.

The study, which combined small human trials with experiments in mice and cells in a Petri dish, showed that consuming over 22% of dietary calories from protein can lead to increased activation of immune cells that play a role in atherosclerotic plaque formation, driving the disease risk. Furthermore, the scientists showed that one amino acid – leucine – seems to have a disproportionate role in driving the pathological pathways linked to atherosclerosis, or stiff, hardened arteries.

“Our study shows that dialing up your protein intake in pursuit of better metabolic health is not a panacea. You could be doing real damage to your arteries,” said senior and co-corresponding author Babak Razani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cardiology at Pitt. “Our hope is that this research starts a conversation about ways of modifying diets in a precise manner that can influence body function at a molecular level and dampen disease risks.”

According to a survey of an average American diet over the last decade, Americans generally consume a lot of protein, mostly from animal sources. Further, nearly a quarter of the population receives over 22% of all daily calories from protein alone.

That trend is likely driven by the popular idea that dietary protein is essential to healthy living, says Razani. But his and other groups have shown that overreliance on protein may not be such a good thing for long-term health.

Following their 2020 research, in which Razani’s laboratory first showed that excess dietary protein increases atherosclerosis risk in mice, his next study in collaboration with Bettina Mittendorfer, Ph.D., a metabolism expert at the University of Missouri, Columbia, delved deeper into the potential mechanism and its relevance to the human body.

To arrive at the answer, Razani’s laboratory, led by first-authors Xiangyu Zhang, Ph.D., and Divya Kapoor, M.D., teamed up with Mittendorfer’s group to combine their expertise in cellular biology and metabolism and perform a series of experiments across various models – from cells to mice to humans.

“We have shown in our mechanistic studies that amino acids, which are really the building blocks of the protein, can trigger disease through specific signaling mechanisms and then also alter the metabolism of these cells,” Mittendorfer said. “For instance, small immune cells in the vasculature called macrophages can trigger the development of atherosclerosis.”

Based on initial experiments in healthy human subjects to determine the timeline of immune cell activation following ingestion of protein-enriched meals, the researchers simulated similar conditions in mice and in human macrophages, immune cells that are shown to be particularly sensitive to amino acids derived from protein.

Their work showed that consuming more than 22% of daily dietary calories through protein can negatively affect macrophages that are responsible for clearing out cellular debris, leading to the accumulation of a “graveyard” of those cells inside the vessel walls and worsening of atherosclerotic plaques overtime. Interestingly, the analysis of circulating amino acids showed that leucine – an amino acid enriched in animal-derived foods like beef, eggs and milk – is primarily responsible for abnormal macrophage activation and atherosclerosis risk, suggesting a potential avenue for further research on personalized diet modification, or “precision nutrition.”

Razani is careful to note that many questions remain to be answered, mainly: What happens when a person consumes between 15% of daily calories from protein as recommended by the USDA and 22% of daily calories from protein, and if there is a ‘sweet spot’ for maximizing the benefits of protein – such as muscle gain – while avoiding kick-starting a molecular cascade of damaging events leading to cardiovascular disease.

The findings are particularly relevant in hospital settings, where nutritionists often recommend protein-rich foods for the sickest patients to preserve muscle mass and strength.

“Perhaps blindly increasing protein load is wrong,” Razani said. “Instead, it’s important to look at the diet as a whole and suggest balanced meals that won’t inadvertently exacerbate cardiovascular conditions, especially in people at risk of heart disease and vessel disorders.”

Razani also notes that these findings suggest differences in leucine levels between diets enriched in plant and animal protein might explain the differences in their effect on cardiovascular and metabolic health. “The potential for this type of mechanistic research to inform future dietary guidelines is quite exciting,” he said.

Additional authors of the study are Yu-Sheng Yeh, Ph.D., also from Pitt; Alan Fappi, Ph.D. and Vasavi Shabrish, Ph.D., both of the University of Missouri, Columbia; Se-Jin Jeong, Ph.D., Jeremiah Stitham, M.D., Ph.D., Ismail Sergin, Ph.D., Eman Yousif, M.D., Astrid Rodriguez-Velez, Ph.D., Arick Park, M.D., Ph.D., Joel Schilling, M.D., Ph.D., Marco Sardiello, Ph.D., Abhinav Diwan, M.D., Nathan Stitziel, M.D., Ph.D., Ali Javaheri, M.D., Ph.D., Irfan Lodhi, Ph.D., and Jaehyung Cho, Ph.D., all of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; Arif Yurdagul Jr, Ph.D., and Oren Rom, Ph.D., both of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center; and Slava Epelman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto.

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