A little over a month since it was launched, the Department of Health's anti-smoking hotline has been busy fielding queries from smokers wanting to quit their tobacco habit.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said close to 300 have called the Quitline and 1,800 texted the mobile line for help to stop smoking. But the actual success rate can only be measured after six to 12 months, she said.

“As of this time - from July 1 to 21 - we have an average of  20 callers per day, and we've had 284 callers in total. For the M-Cessation, we have 1,797 texters,” the Health chief said in an interview in Tayuman, Manila.

The Quitline (165-364) and its mobile counterpart, the M-Cessation (text STOPSMOKE to 29290-165-364) were launched on June 21 for smokers to have a fallback because of the nationwide smoking ban, which is expected to discourage smokers from continuing the habit.

However, it could take six months up to one year before the public learns of the success rate for smokers calling the Quitline and mobile cessation. Secretary Ubial noted that documentation would only start around that time.

Presently, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2015 - the latest available tally - indicated that the number of Filipino adult smokers has significantly dropped, from 29.7 percent (2009) to 23.8 million in (2015).

On cessation, the same report said 76.7 percent of current smokers are thinking of quitting, 4 percent of smokers in the past 12 months successfully kicked the habit, and 56.5 percent of smokers were advised by health professionals to quit.

Secretary Ubial noted during the launch that the department is aiming for at least 10 percent reduction in the number of smokers.

“We are aiming for 15 percent prevalence rate by 2022, that is 8 to 9 points reduction,” she said.

Relatedly, the Health Secretary clarified that it’s up to local government units (LGUs) how they will apprehend violators. Most LGUs with anti-smoking protocol create a task force for monitoring, such as in Balanga City and Davao City.

She added that it’s the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that will provide reminders or sanctions to LGUs. MIMS

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PH launches 24/7 hotline for smokers wanting quit