Around the University TownThe Starting BlokeWhat Noynoy can't, Dumagueteños can?

What Noynoy can’t, Dumagueteños can?

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The Amlañons and Zamboanguitañons could! So why not Dumagueteños?

I was a two-packs-a-day smoker myself back in the 1960s, but I gave up smoking instantly at the precise moment when I saw the US Surgeon General on television decreeing that smoking is unhealthy. So, personally, I believe it’s a matter of will power and self-discipline. And it appears that president-apparent Noynoy Aquino could not be a model to the Filipino youth, who according to news reports, are among the biggest and youngest group of smokers in Asia. Aquino refused, when requested, to refrain from smoking for just one day, during the celebration of “World No Tobacco Day”, observed around the world every year on May 31…a day that is “meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to deaths worldwide annually. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in 1987.” (Wikipedia).

The theme set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for this 2010 WNTD is, “Gender and Tobacco, with an Emphasis on Marketing to Women,” aimed to draw attention to the sex-specific effects of tobacco use, thus the need for gender-specific tobacco control strategies.

In a report of Dona Pazzibugan in the Phil Daily Inquirer, first posted (12/04/2008), a study by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, showed that “Women smokers in the country are getting younger…with three out of 10 female Filipino smokers in their early teens…and that 18.7 percent of young Filipino females between the ages of 13 and 25 smoked cigarettes.”

“What was more alarming was that three out of 10 Filipina smokers were 13 to 15 years old…The statistics on girls as young as 13 becoming addicted to smoking are really alarming, and something has to be done about it,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP). The youngest child that FCAP has on record was only six years old when he started smoking.

According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the risk of a heart attack for women who both smoke and use oral contraception is greater than for non-smokers. FNRI’s other warnings:
– Women who smoke are less fertile and pregnant female smokers are twice as likely to have a miscarriage.
– Women who smoke and use an IUD (intrauterine device) are more likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease than women who do not.
– Women smokers are at greater risk to develop cancer of the cervix.
– Women who smoke are likely to reach menopause earlier and are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis and have a hysterectomy.
– Babies of women who smoke during pregnancy are lighter and are more likely to be stillborn or die during the first few weeks.

Young people are also regularly exposed to second-hand and even third-hand smoke, the residue left in a room after someone smokes, which often sticks to furniture and clothes. Infants and young children who play with items that have been exposed to cigarette smoke can eventually develop asthma and other smoking-related diseases.

“Children are the most vulnerable to second-hand smoke, which is six times more poisonous than mainstream smoke. Cigarette smoke is being imposed on them even if they don’t like it. This is a violation of their right to remain healthy and breathe clean air,’ said Dr Limpin. About six in ten children live in Filipino houses where other people smoke. Figures from FCAP further show that about 200,000 young Filipinos will suffer from smoking-related diseases early on in their lives, and about 80,000 will perish from it.

However, the good news is that Negros Oriental is “gearing up for a smoke-free province with the aid of legislation.” Board Member Marcelo Adanza, who authored the proposed ordinance, said that he was challenged by the successful implementation of smoke-free regulations in the municipalities of Amlan and Zamboanguita. Bernie Maniego, health director of Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Free Philippines, said Negros Oriental is the first that proposed a local ordinance to promote a smoke-free province, and that if passed and its implementation sustained through political will from the local chief executives, it would serve as a model for other localities to emulate.

Last July 17, 2009 Amlan Councilor Edmund Tubac and Mayor Betham Dela Cruz, along with more than a thousand government officials, students and residents, walked three kilometers to launch the ordinance and declared Amlan a smoke-free zone. On this occasion, Negros Oriental Governor Emilio Macias II, himself a non-smoker, lauded the town for being the first in the region to pass an ordinance that promotes the health and wellness of its more than 22,000 constituents. Governor Macias said:

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. And that is why at 75, I am still active. Smoking is supposed to be dangerous for our health and yet our government, as with any other governments in the world, did not stop the production of tobacco because of the taxes derived from it. But if we look into the matter intently, we will find that the taxes we earn will not be enough even to pay for the expenses of curing those who contracted the diseases from smoking.”

With the re-election of Governor Dr. Emilio Macias III, it is anticipated that passage of the no-smoking provincial ordinance is a done deal, and this brings us to the question on whether the incoming leadership of the City government, Mayor Manuel Sagarbarria, Vice-Mayor Alan Gel Cordova, and members of the City Council will move accordingly and act expeditiously on this urgent problem that bears a significant impact on the health and wellness of the young people in University Town. Since reports indicate that there are a substantial number of girls and young women smokers who will give birth to damaged and unhealthy babies of the next generation, shouldn’t this be a priority concern of everyone?

Thus, I urge the student councils of all the academic institutions of University Town to unite and launch a campaign for the enactment of a City resolution that will make smoking and all practices related to it, against the law, and violators to be assessed stiff fines–or thrown to jail.

You will have a champion in the youthful and idealistic Vice-Mayor Alan Cordova whom you have voted to that position and who will be the presiding officer of the City Council. As for Noynoy Aquino, whom you also voted to the highest political power in our country, he said that you favored him over the presidential candidates “despite the knowledge that he is a smoker. “

Let not that statement of his deter you from following the late Pope John Paul II exhortation that he addressed to you on World Youth Day 2000: “I am thinking especially of you young people, who experience in a special way the blessing of life, and have a duty not to waste it…”

Smoking is not a good choice in fulfilling the duty not to waste the blessing of life.

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