Are you a smoker? So am I, a second-hand smoker, that is.
There are millions of people out there wanting to achieve that “high” from smoking. In fact, in the Philippines, 17.3 million Filipinos are smokers starting from 15 years old to adulthood. That’s about 28.3% of the entire population. There’s even some data showing that Filipino children start smoking at the age of seven! Smoking in the Philippines is so widespread that in a World Health Organization Study in 2008, it was estimated that the Philippines spends up to 149 billion PHP every year on medical bills for smoking-related illnesses (the top four being heart disease, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and diabetes). This despite getting up to 23 billion PHP from cigarette taxes.
Shocking? But those four are not the only illness you could get from smoking. Chances are, if you’re a smoker, you’ll have higher odds of contracting those four diseases, plus lung cancer, cancer of the mouth, rotting teeth, erectile dysfunction, inability to taste food, etc. Smoking can even shorten your lifespan. Yes, even second-hand smoking. Did you know that every day up to 240 Filipinos die due to smoke-related illnesses?
Why is smoking so bad for our health?
First, we need to examine what’s inside the cigarette. There are over 7,000 chemicals found in cigarettes and at least 50 of them are suspected carcinogens. But the three main ingredients that we’re going to discuss are nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar.
Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco. It’s the reason why so many Filipinos find it hard to quit smoking. The chemical can reach the brain under ten seconds and cause increases in blood pressure, heartbeat, and adrenaline. Its addictive property causes the brain to release happy hormones so that it makes the body feel relaxed.
Did you know that nicotine is used as an insecticide? What’s worse is that nicotine changes brain chemistry causing behavioral and cognitive impairment. And it negatively impacts brain development among young adults. It also has a very negative impact on unborn children’s health if it’s inhaled during pregnancy.
Carbon Monoxide is found in engine exhaust fumes. It also decreases oxygen in the blood and other organs such as the brain and heart. Prolonged exposure could cause carbon monoxide poisoning and increases the chance of developing heart disease.
Other than being in your cigarettes, tar is also a material used to pave roads. Tar is a thick, sticky chemical that once inhaled, will stick to the linings of your lungs. When the tar has successfully coated your lungs, little fine hairs lining your lungs called cilia die, making you vulnerable to infections and increase your chances of lung cancer. Tar is so bad for your lungs because it can actually cause your lung cells to die.
And that’s just three of the 7,000 or so ingredients found in tobacco. No wonder there are all of these health risk warning signs found on cigarette boxes.
Smoking Cessation Program of the DOH
The Philippine government even made a ban on public smoking in 2017. The Department of Health is taking these health risks seriously. The DOH launched the Smoking Cessation Program in 2003 with the aim of urging Filipinos to quit smoking and treating tobacco dependence in Filipinos. According to the DOH, to achieve this objective, they are using a range of techniques including “motivation, advice and guidance, counseling, telephone and internet support, and appropriate pharmaceutical aids.”
There is some good news for the DOH, though. About 47.8% of Filipinos who smoked within the last 12 months made an attempt to quit. With the help of the DOH’s Smoking Cessation Program, these Filipinos attempting to quit smoking are being given an opportunity to for an easier road ahead for abandoning their unhealthy habit. And it is surely a bumpy road ahead because only about 4.5% of smokers are able to successfully quit smoking.
It is possible with the right kind of support and information, choosing a healthier life for yourself and others by choosing to quit smoking is an achievable goal. Hopefully, this blog post will help take that first step and encourage you towards achieving that goal.