Issue of March 19, 2017

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Smoking is top cause of deaths in Baguio
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Linking the smoking habit to the country’s grim health situation, the Baguio City Health Services Office (CHSO) blew the horns on the dangers of tobacco smoking anew, as it challenged the city council to pass the proposed Comprehensive Tobacco Control Ordinance immediately.

CHSO made the call last week, as it claimed that an ordinance with more teeth and one that encompasses all strategies on tobacco control in the city, compared to the existing anti-smoking ordinance, will further support existing government efforts to successfully prevent the widespread effects of tobacco smoking to health.

Dr. Donabel Tubera, CHSO’s medical officer IV, said in a forum that records show that the top five causes of death recorded so far in city hospitals and health facilities are all linked or have been caused by tobacco smoking.

Leading causes of death in the city are heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and pneumonia.

Cancer prevalence, Tubera added, recently climbed to number two last year from being the third leading cause of death in the city in 2015 according to their data. Its type transcended lung cancer, which commonly results from excessive smoking. Now it includes breast, heart, head, neck cancer, as well as colonic and uterine cancers – all linked to tobacco smoking.

A smoker’s risk of having tuberculosis, she added, is three times or 300 percent higher than that of a non-smoker.

Available data showed that the prevalence of smoking in Baguio was around 40 percent of those studied who are 15 years old and above in 2014, way higher compared to the 28 percent national rate in the same year.

Tubera said this means there are more tobacco smokers in the city than in the national level.

“This is alarming. But what is more alarming is that Baguio is an educational center so those who come here also have the tendency to learn the vice,” she said. “It is but proper to really push for a comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance in the city,” she added.

Approved in 2008, the city’s existing anti-smoking ordinance only spells out where and where not to smoke. In the proposed new ordinance, there will now be provisions on electronic cigarettes, vaping, water pipe smoking commonly used by foreign students, tobacco advertising, sponsorships by tobacco companies, and smoke cessation counselling.

The proposed ordinance will also include stepped-up enforcement strategies, which shall not be limited to the police, but also deputizes barangay officials and allows citizens’ arrests in the implementation of the ordinance.

“We issue this challenge because we need to protect the future of the city, not only in terms of life but also for the environment,” the health official said.

Tubera expressed confidence that the comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance, when passed, together with the executive order of the President mandating a nationwide ban on smoking in public places, when issued; and the Sin Tax Law that periodically increases taxes imposed on cigarette and liquor products, resulting to higher prices, will extensively reduce smoking.

She said these strategies are best practices that underwent studies and proven all over the world to be effective in stopping the smoking habit.

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