Second-hand smoke, and why stricter tobacco control matters
MANILA, Philippines – He was never into the habit of smoking, and yet Jam Sebastian, one half of the popular YouTube duo Jamich, found out he has stage 4 lung cancer in 2014.
He was told by doctors the cancer was due to many factors, such as stress, and unhealthy sleeping and eating habits.
"And 'yung mga friends ko din po, secondhand smoking, ganun po (And because of my friends, because of second-hand smoking)," Sebastian said in an April 2014 interview for GMA-7 show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho.
Anti-smoking group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said Sebastian's story is an eye-opener: exposure to second-hand smoke is just as dangerous as the act of smoking itself.
"Mr Sebastian’s experience is not an isolated one as millions of Filipinos, including children are also inhaling harmful smoke from tobacco," NVAP president and laryngeal cancer survivor Emer Rojas said in a statement Saturday, February 28.
The group renewed its call for stricter implementation of tobacco control measures in the country that will address the many dangers of smoking, including its effect on non-smokers.
The call comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, February 27 celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), of which the Philippines is a signatory.
Among other tobacco control measures, the FCTC calls for protection from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Yet despite the Philippines’ Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211), the figures are still alarming: 24 million Filipinos are exposed to tobacco smoke every day, with 66.7% inhaling second-hand smoke at work, and 75.7% in places without an anti-tobacco policy.
Citing the Philippine Cancer Society, NVAP said 3,000 Filipinos die of lung cancer each year because of second-hand smoke. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the Philippines and worldwide. (READ: What you should know about lung cancer)
Role of government
Rojas appealed to the Aquino administration and local government units for the full implementation of the country’s tobacco control measures, especially since RA 9211 is "loosely observed both in some parts of Metro Manila and among provinces where awareness is low." (READ: Tobacco CSR thwarts ad ban, no-smoking laws)
“You don’t need to go far. Some establishments in Quezon City allow customers to smoke while watching standup comedy. Some policemen at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport smoke in non-smoking areas while others do it at bus terminals…the list goes on," he said.
The public should also do its part and report anyone who violates RA 9211, Rojas said, so non-smokers like Sebastian can be protected from the fatal effects of smoking.
"It’s unfair that other people suffer just because smokers prefer to puff without a care about who gets exposed. This should not happen if only the law is implemented and violators punished," he added. – Jee Y. Geronimo/Rappler.com
Smoking image from Shutterstock