Sunday, June 21, 2009

Second-hand smoke victims can fight back

By JENNY F. MANONGDO - Manila Bulletin

Annoyed by inhaling second-hand tobacco smoke? You have the right to tell the smoker to stop smoking or carry his habit elsewhere, antitobacco advocates Monday said.

Some eight million residents of Metro Manila who are exposed to second-hand smoke weekly have expressed their frustration as reflected in a joint survey done by the government and by an international non-government organization committed to empowering governments in preventing and managing lung ailments, resulting from smoking.

However, out of the 8.7 million people living in Manila who admitted they are upset when they inhale second hand smoke weekly, only eight percent have the courage to stand up and make known their frustrations.

This was shown in a comprehensive survey, "Second-hand smoking in Metro Manila," commissioned by the Department of Health (DoH) Center for Health Development-Metro Manila (CHD-MM) and World Lung Foundation and funded by the Bloomberg initiative, a foreign funding agency aiming to reduce tobacco consumption in low and middle income countries.

"You should tell the smoker to stop smoking. Ilugar niya ang paninigarilyo. There are designated smoking areas just as there are areas that smoking is banned," Dr. Irma Asuncion, acting director of CHD-MM told a forum during the launch of the survey in Manila Monday. "For smokers, you should also learn to respect the rights of non-smokers."

Interestingly, the survey also pointed out how smokers comply with the requests of non-smokers.

When the smokers were asked to stop smoking or to smoke somewhere else, 36 percent ignored the request, 10 percent became angry and 54 percent complied with the request.

"As you can see, the rest stopped smoking and carried their smoking somewhere else. This is an eye opener. It's our right for clean air," Dr. Asuncion added.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, also an anti-tobacco advocate, said the Filipino culture of “pakikisama” is working against the desire to tell smokers off. "Surveys show that one main reason why smoking is so tolerated in the Philippines is that sense of "pakikisama" and "hiya." It's like the non-smokers are the ones who should be feel ashamed instead of the smokers. Isn't that ironic?"

"Even when we smoke in rooms with open windows or in open air areas, the studies prove that the smoke still reaches other people and do have harmful effects," she added.

The survey gathered 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 55 years old and was carried out from January 29 to February 26 this year.

Eighty-seven percent of them think cigarettes can cause heart disease in non-smokers, and 74 percent admitted they are exposed to second hand smoke one or more times per week. Moreover, 71 percent of non-smokers who were surveyed “strongly agree” that they get upset when they are exposed to second-hand smoke.

In 2006, the air pollution authority of California labeled second hand smoke as a toxin in itself along with fumes from diesel, gasoline and other severe pollutants, Hontiveros said.

Health experts point to second hand smoke as a risk factor for developing breast cancer and lung diseases including pneumonia, cancer, and tuberculosis among others.

"If you look at the case fatality ratio of A (H1N1) it is only 0.5 to 0.6 percent. But if you look into the top 10 leading causes of mortality in Metro Manila, Pneumonia, TB and the rest are non-communicable diseases which are related to smoking," Dr. Asuncion said.

Although the DoH sees the inefficient implementation of existing national laws and local ordinances on tobacco use, Dr. Garcia sees victory in the commitment of nine out of 17 local government units in Metro Manila that have pledged to support the campaigns.

These include the cities of Caloocan, Navotas, Valenzuela, Quezon City, Taguig, City of Manila, Pasig City, Marikina and Muntinlupa.


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