Cigarettes and alcohol are a “sin” in the Philippines as dictated by the Sin Tax Reform Law, effective in the country since January 2013.
Thanks to this “sin tax” cigarette smoking is on the decline in the Philippines with the number of cigarette packs put on store shelves falling by nearly a third between 2012 and 2014, according toInquirer.net. It’s expected to further decline as taxes were raised again for these “sins” for the fourth year in a row.
But, for the Department of Health (DOH), this isn’t enough. The DOH is aiming to bring the number of Pinoy smokers down even more and they’re specifically targeting parents. Bringing their goals to the public, the DOH launched an anti-tobacco campaign called “Protect Your Family, Stop Smoking!”
“Tobacco is the primary risk factor in the Philippines for a range of non-communicable diseases,” says the DOH, costing the economy more than P188 billion in health care costs and productivity losses.
“The Philippines’ Sin Taxes Law is helping to reduce smoking prevalence, but more than one-fifth of adults continue to use tobacco daily and youth smoking rates remain worryingly high,” says Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President for Policy and Communications from Vital Strategies, formerly the World Lung Foundation and The Union North America who the DOH has partnered with for the campaign.
In the Philippines, more than 17 million adults smoke cigarettes, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey. Of those who smoke daily, 38 percent are men (fathers included) and 7 percent are women (mothers included).
What’s frightening is that 240 people are killed by tobacco-related diseases every day, a statistic given by DOH Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial. It’s not just the smokers that are affected either as around 3,000 non-smoking Filipinos die every year of lung cancer caused by inhaling second-hand smoke. Can you imagine how many from those numbers are parents?
To drive home the point, the DOH shot a public service announcement (PSA) featuring a daughter and her ill father, which will air on national television and regional radio channels. It will also be shown on electronic billboards and will be distributed and uploaded to social media platforms like YouTube.
The 30-second PSA centers on a school-age girl and her family’s struggles, both emotionally and financially, ever since her bed-ridden dad developed cancer because of a smoking habit. “Ang hirap ng buhay ‘pag kami lang ni Nanay. Paano na ngayon ang kinabukasan ko?” she painfully says. The video ends with a call to action from Dr. Ubial saying, “Mahalin ang sarili at pamilya, paninigarilyo itigil na!”
“[Smoking] is part of the overall substance abuse menace facing Philippine society today... With more than 17 million Filipinos still addicted to tobacco use, there’s more work to be done to reduce the health and economic harms of tobacco. We are confident that this campaign, with its clear message targeted at Filipino families, will encourage more people to try to quit smoking tobacco,” says Dr. Ubial.
Still not convinced? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), second-hand smoke puts your family at an increased risk for a number of diseases. In children, this includes sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory illnesses, chronic respiratory symptoms and middle ear disease. For adults, it’s coronary heart disease, lung cancer, unwanted reproductive effects in women and nasal irritation.
If you’re considering quitting smoking, we applaud you as it really is no easy feat. “Quitting tobacco is not easy as tobacco dependence is a cluster of behavioural, cognitive and physiological phenomena. Very few tobacco users can successfully quit the habit in their first attempt. But the evidence is strong that it can be done,” says WHO. Here’s how to start your healthier life using WHO’s "STAR" quit plan.
1. Set a quit date. The more concrete our plans and ideas are, the more likely they’re realized so pick a date right now on when you’ll start quitting. WHO says it can be a meaningful day like your birthday or a loved one’s birthday. But you can also always go with today.
2. Tell your friends, family and coworkers. Getting support from loved ones can be a crucial part to quitting smoking. They’ll remind you that you’re quitting and will understand if they have to refrain from smoking when you’re around. It’s even better if you can find a “quit buddy.” You can keep each other in check and inspired.
3. Anticipate challenges. As mentioned, quitting tobacco not going to be easy. “The first few days and weeks will be the hardest due to potential nicotine withdrawal symptoms as well as the obstacles presented by breaking any habit,” says WHO. Read up beforehand so you’ll be mentally prepared when you start to experience them.
4. Remove tobacco products from your environment. Having them around will only tempt you to light one up. Avoid smoking areas as well and if there are smokers in your household, ask them to smoke outside the home.
More info on the STAR plan plus a lot more useful info and tips on quitting (like the challenges quitters go through, the benefits of quitting and relapse prevention and preparation) is in WHO’s A Guide for Tobacco Users to Quit found here. All of WHO’s material on quitting tobacco is found here.