Confessions from a former smoker

I was a teenager when I started to smoke a cigarette. Being away from home and my parents’ prying eyes during college in Manila provided me with the freedom to try many things, including smoking.

My college’s cafeteria has an al fresco area where students can smoke. So, puffed we did, in between conversations about how the 2,000: 40 girl-boy population in school has resulted to the bloated egos of our male students, among other things.

Had so many memories about smoking, which at that time, I thought was “cool”. Even experimented on the latest brands and flavors. Loved those slims! Didn’t care about the “rumors” that smoking can cause bad breath.

Memory 1: Mom confronted me after she found a pack of cigarettes inside my bag. The rebellious teen then lectured her about respect and opening other people’s bags, a tactic (huwag tularan) to veer away from the real issue of smoking.

Memory 2: Peer pressure. I thought I succeeded in tempting another teen – my brother – when he lighted a cigarette and puffed some. But, he stopped and threw the cigarette away. That was an example of “self-control” and of saying “no”.

Memory 3: I got sick a lot.

Memory 4: The rumors were true – smoking causes bad breath. I flirted with a smoker and his breath really sucked. I did not ask what he thought of my breath.

Memory 5: My father was diagnosed with arteriosclerosis due to smoking. It is a disease where a build-up of plaque narrows the arteries. The hardened plaque limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body. Tobacco smoke harms our blood vessels. The damage on the heart and the function of the blood vessels increases the risk of having atherosclerosis.

So, experience (the best teacher) ended the love affair with smoking.

The Iloilo Anti-Smoking Task Force hangs a graphic streamer at the hall of Brgy. East Baluarte Molo.

WILL MORE PINOYS STOP SMOKING?
Nowadays, whenever I see teens who smoke (check out the smug faces when they do haha), I thought of the “past”. Some teens outgrow the phase while some do not. But, with intervention, there is always hope.

Just recently, the Philippines’ Graphic Health Warning Act took effect. Senator Franklin Drilon, in a press release, said that he is confident that this, along with the full implementation of the Sin Tax Reform Law will result to more Filipinos quitting smoking.

Records from the Department of Health and the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that “as an effect of the Sin Tax Reform Law, smokers of lower socio-economic standing (class E) are beginning to stop smoking. From December 2012 to March 2014, the number of smokers from class E dropped down by 13 percent, from 38 percent to 25 percent.”

Drilon said that additional revenues generated from the Sin Tax Reform Law will continue to benefit the health sector. “For instance, in the proposed P2.606 trillion 2015 national budget, 15.4 indigent families will be enrolled in Philhealth, which will mostly be funded from sin tax collections.”

“Under the Sin Tax Reform Act, 80 percent of the remaining incremental revenues will be allocated for the universal health care under the NHIP and 20 percent will be allocated nationwide for medical assistance and health facilities enhancement program,” he added.

“The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) also reported that the sin tax collections for the first half of the year are nearly twice that of collections made within the same time period in 2013. The government’s domestic cigarette tax collection has gone up by 44 percent, as the government was able to build up collections up to P28.1 billion from January to June of 2014, as compared to the P19.5 billion cigarette excise tax collections made from January to June of 2013,” he further said.

PUBLIC SUPPORT
Meanwhile, we can support the government’s efforts by highlighting their positive gains as well as carefully minding our words when we suggest improvements, if any. Our positive approach will likely breed optimism, instead of cynicism among the youth, inspiring them to support as well.

However, nothing beats setting an example. Most often, children or teens who smoke have parents who smoke. Adults can give up smoking for their child’s sake, at least. But those who can’t, can refrain from smoking around the child and from scattering cigarette butts everywhere. However, this breeds distrust.

A parent or guardian can ask how a child or teen feels about smoking. The young mostly likely engage in smoking because they think it is glamorous and it is one way of becoming part of the “in” group. Once a teenager myself, I could say that judging a child for being bad or issuing ultimatums do not work. Rather, explain the hazards of smoking, show examples of well-loved people who died of lung cancer, and make him/her list down how much is being spent (wasted) on cigarettes.

Moreover, inspire a child to get involved in sports or other activities where he/she can also look “cool” and “in”./Marie Katherine Villalon


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