Filipino smokers urged to quit life-threatening vice | Inquirer Business

Filipino smokers urged to quit life-threatening vice

One bad habit Filipinos need to quit now is smoking. Aware of this, leading research-based healthcare company Novartis Healthcare Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) and major medical societies recently observed World Hypertension Day (WHD) by appealing to Filipinos to quit smoking for their and their loved one’s sake.

Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona said: “Smoking is a major cause of health problems among Filipinos, including hypertension, heart attack, stroke, cancer and lung disease. The government and private sector must work together to help smokers quit this life-threatening vice.”

During the event, Ona was represented by Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag, who later taught media and medical practitioners dance moves they can adopt for a healthy lifestyle.


Major risk factor


“Smoking can increase a person’s heart rate by 10 to 20 beats per minute and blood pressure by 5 to 10 mmHg, said Dr. Romeo Divinagracia, president of the Philippine Society of Hypertension. “Quitting smoking is crucial in restoring cardiovascular health,” he added.

Philippine Heart Association president Dr. Saturnino Javier said: “Smoking is a major risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among Filipinos. Of the almost 14 million Filipinos who have hypertension, about 4 million are unaware they have the condition and only a little over a million are able to control it. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease, among others.”

“Smoking is the primary cause of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a serious and irreversible lung disease that interferes with normal breathing. Quitting smoking is the cornerstone of COPD prevention,” said Dr. Celeste Mae Campomanes, president of the  Philippine College of Chest Physicians.

Secondhand smoke

How do the smokers’ loved ones are affected by their smoking? According to the American Cancer Society, nonsmokers who breathe in secondhand smoke (SHS) take in nicotine and other toxic chemicals just like smokers do. The US Environment Protection Agency, the US National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a branch of the World Health Organization) classified secondhand smoke as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent).

The IARC said in 2009, parents who smoked before and during pregnancy were more likely to have a child with hepatoblastoma, a rare cancer thought to start while the child is still in the uterus.


According to the ACS, each year in the United States alone, SHS is responsible for:

• An estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are current nonsmokers;

• About 3,400 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults;

• Worse asthma and asthma-related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children;

• Children more likely to be put to intensive care when they have the flu, confined in the hospital longer and more likely to need breathing tubes than kids who aren’t exposed to SHS; and

• Over $10 billion annual cost of extra medical care, illness and death.

The Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey says almost one in three Filipinos (28.3 percent) aged 15 years and over are smokers. Eighty percent of current smokers smoke daily. On average, men smoke 11.3 cigarettes per day and women 7 cigarettes.

“We are privileged to work with our partners in raising awareness on the life-saving benefits of quitting smoking,” said Thomas Weigold, country president and managing director of Novartis Healthcare Philippines.

Video message contest

This is the fifth consecutive year Novartis Healthcare Philippines is collaborating with the DOH and major medical societies in commemorating WHD. In line with this year’s theme “Healthy Heart Beat—Healthy Blood Pressure,” Novartis and its partners launched the “I Quit” video message contest. Going beyond conventional smoking cessation strategies that highlight the adverse health effects of smoking, the innovative contest utilizes a personal and emotional approach.

Contest participants are asked to make a 30- to 90-second video urging their loved one—a family member, a relative, a friend, or a partner—to quit smoking. There are also categories for video testimonials of persons who successfully quit smoking and video messages of smokers who are making a commitment to quit. The complete contest mechanics are available on

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“Our loved ones are powerful motivators. By pulling on smokers’ heartstrings, we hope to encourage more Filipinos to stop smoking,” Weigold said.

TAGS: diseases, health and wellness, smoking

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