Amid reports of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of an Executive Order banning smoking in public places nationwide and prohibiting smoking and selling of cigarettes to those below 18, a pulmonologist, in a press conference yesterday, said that there is a need for government to raise the minimum legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 to significantly reduce the number of smokers, particularly, young first-time smokers in the country.  Philstar.com/File

Doctor: Raising legal smoking to age 21 could significantly reduce smoking prevalence
(philstar.com) - May 19, 2017 - 3:01am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid reports of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of an Executive Order banning smoking in public places nationwide and prohibiting smoking and selling of cigarettes to those below 18, a pulmonologist, in a press conference yesterday, said that there is a need for government to raise the minimum legal age for smoking from 18 to 21 to significantly reduce the number of smokers, particularly, young first-time smokers in the country. 

Dr. Gian Carlo Arandia, a pulmonologist at ManilaMed, is one of many healthcare professionals who believe that simply limiting the accessibility of tobacco products to a more mature segment of the population will help reduce the number of smokers in the country.

“Raising the legal age for smoking can have measurable benefits. Studies suggest that smoking is at least in part a social problem that is associated with peer pressure and conformity issues.  Those who start smoking much later in life, compared to those who start when they are 15 or 17, may be less likely to smoke habitually for the rest of their lives. Because the decision to try smoking as an adult is not usually as linked to conformity or self-image issues the way it is in many teenage smokers if not most of them.”Dr. Arandia said.

Dr. Arandia added that adolescents smoke because of peer pressure, stress, and the desire to feel older or more mature. “By raising the legal smoking age to 21, we give impressionable teens a better chance of ‘riding out’ their more susceptible years so that by the time they can smoke legally, they are better informed, more mature, and less likely to make the decision to experiment with smoking.” 

According to him, “This is an assertion supported by a study by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.The study’s findings, which also suggest that those who start smoking as mature adults also have greater success in eventually kicking the habit later in life.” 

“Another measure that may discourage people from smoking is further increasing the prices of cigarettes. Through the recent amendment of the sin tax law, cigarettes can now cost up to 60 to 80 pesos per pack or 5 pesos per stick, depending on the brand. However, we can impose higher prices if the government is really serious about stopping people from smoking. In Singapore, cigarettes can cost up to the equivalent of400-500 pesos per pack. If we do that here, who will actually still buy them? Higher prices are better because fewer people can afford to buy them,” Dr. Arandia said.

 

Highlights from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2011 (13 to 15 years old)

  • ?13.7 percent currently use some form of tobacco
  • 8.9 percent of students currently smoke cigarettes
  • 7.3 percent currently use some other form of tobacco

 

Local statistics

  • 17. 3 million Filipino adults ages 15 years old and older are current tobacco smokers, according to the results of the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey.

 

Second-hand smoke exposure

  • More than two in five students live in homes where others smoke.
  • Close to three in five students are exposed to smoke around others outside of the home
  • Half the students have one or more parents who smoke
  • About 9.5 percent of students have friends who smoke

Other findings:

  • Close to eight in 10 students think smoke from others is harmful to them.
  • More than nine in 10 students think smoking in public spaces should be banned.
  • Close to nine in 10 smokers want to stop smoking.
  • One in 10 students has a possession/property with a cigarette brand logo in it.
  • Nine in 10 students saw anti-smoking messages in the last 30 days.
  • Eight in 10 students saw pro cigarette ads in billboards in the last 30 days.
  • Seven in 10 saw pro-cigarette ads in magazines in the last 30 days.

Withdrawal symptoms and benefits

  • Intense Cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Tension or Frustration
  • Drowsiness or trouble sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased levels of carbon dioxide in your body 12 hours after you quit
  • Improvement in your sense of smell and taste, 48 hours after you quit
  • Nicotine withdrawal, three days after you quit
  • Exercise with ease, two to three weeks after you quit
  • Decreased coughing and shortness of breath, one to nine months after you quit
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, one year after you quit
  • Reduced risk of stroke, five years after you quit
  • Reduced risk of lung cancer, 10 years after you quit
  • 15 years after quitting, those who quit smoking decrease their level of risk for heart disease, to that of non-smokers

Physiological Effects

  • After two hours without cigarettes, a smoker’s heart rate and blood pressure will be close to normal.
  • Blood Circulation will start to improve.
  • Fingertips and toes will start to feel warm.
  • Nicotine withdrawal symptoms start two hours after last cigarette.

 

The special forum on smoking at which Dr. Arandia spoke was organized by Manila Med, as part of the hospital’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness on the prevalence and urgency of urban healthcare issues by starting meaningful conversations on the specific healthcare issues that are endemic to city life.  

—Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

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