It is a tough challenge. But health authorities believe they can make more headway in government’s anti-smoking campaign if they focus on the Filipino youth.

For one, the young are just starting to smoke. And it should be easier to get them to quit before they get hooked. Asking them not to succumb to pressure, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated.

There is sense in targeting the youth to not pick up the smoking habit. Those who start smoking early then continue throughout adulthood become ‘replacement smokers’ of the tobacco industry, a Department of Health study shows.

“This creates a vicious cycle of young tobacco users and an unhealthy future adult population,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial noted.

The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) of 2015 indicated that a significant proportion of smokers belonged to the 13 - 15 age group. That is not comforting.

So as the Philippines kicks off No Smoking Month, DOH will put more effort in reaching this segment of the population.

At the press launch, Secretary Ubial appealed to the youth to control themselves and not give in to temptation to try smoking. The bigger message is to remember the health consequences of smoking.

The Health chief knows too well that the ages between 10 and 19 are most vulnerable when it comes to starting to smoke.

“A single puff may hook you for the rest of your life and chain you to various diseases. Not to mention the several ugly things smoking can do to your youthful bodies - bad breath, stained teeth, early wrinkles, and poor vision,” Secretary Ubial declared.

She further warned against the ill health effects of smoking such as stroke, heart diseases, lung diseases, and cancers in the body.

“These are risks that you would not happy to be taking,” she added.

But the Health chief and her department are optimistic the Filipino youth will step up and realize the dangers of smoking and ultimately not take up the habit.

In line with the month’s observation, the DOH and the Department of Education (DepEd) have prepared activities to roll out in schools. This includes poster-making and essay writing contests, as well as extending invitations to doctors, and healthcare practitioners from health units to conduct lectures.

In particular, they aim to help the public become aware of the recently signed Executive Order on smoking ban, which calls for smoke-free environments, which aims to further protect Filipinos from tobacco smoke exposure nationwide.

The order bans smoking in public places and conveyances, namely in schools, workplaces, sidewalks and transport vehicles such as jeepneys, buses and tricycles.

“Minors are not allowed to smoke, to buy, or to be sold tobacco products. Likewise, they are prohibited from being ordered or compelled to use, light up, buy, sell, distribute, deliver, advertise or promote tobacco products,” the Health agency said.

The DOH is set to release the EO’s Implementing Rules and Regulation this coming July.

Meanwhile, the effect of the graphic health warnings on cigarette packages has yet to be measured, Secretary Ubial said.

She pointed out that the result of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) that showed a decline in the number of Filipino smokers did not take into account the GHW as this was not yet in place.

But they do expect that all initiatives put in place after that survey was conducted will have an effect in the 2020 survey, particularly the implementation of the executive order. MIMS

Read more:

World No Tobacco Day: Health, economic, environmental threats due to smoking
Health department planning additional anti-smoking clinics to help smokers