Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poor Judgement by the Smoking Senator

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

Here are ten important facts about cigarette smoking from the WHO: (

1. Smoking related-diseases kill one in 10 adults globally, or cause four million deaths. By 2030, if current trends continue, smoking will kill one in six people.

2. Every eight seconds, someone in the world dies from tobacco use.

3. Smoking is on the rise in the developing world but falling in developed nations. Among Americans, smoking rates shrunk by nearly half in three decades (from the mid-1960s to mid-1990s), falling to 23% of adults by 1997. In the developing world, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year.

5. Half of long-term smokers will die from tobacco. Every cigarette smoked cuts at least five minutes of life on average - about the time taken to smoke it.

6. Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death. It is a prime factor in heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease. It can cause cancer of the lungs, larynx, oesophagus, mouth, and bladder, and contributes to cancer of the cervix, pancreas, and kidneys.

7. More than 4,000 toxic or carcinogenic chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke.

8. About 200,000 Filipino men will develop smoking-related diseases in their productive years of age. It was estimated in 1999, that to provide health care for these sick men, and the loss in productivity, cost Filipino taxpayers some P43 billion.

9. Every year, there are about 20,000 smoking-related deaths in the country.

10. Tobacco use will drain nearly 20% of the household income of smokers' families.

So what is Senator Noynoy Aquino thinking when he had this picture taken with the two young women?

Poor lapse of judgement? Ignorant of the perils of smoking and second hand smoke? or maybe he simply doesn't understand the meaning of "leadership by example"?

By the way, he is the only presidential candidate who smokes!!

Noynoy Aquino admits his cigarette addiction and has adopted a "Barack Obama style" response - I will quit smoking when I become President.

But Noynoy Aquino is no Barack Obama.

Barack Obama has shown very good judgement by being extremely discreet with his smoking during the presidential campaign. And he has never been photographed with a smoke with young people around him.

Many legislators in the House of Representatives are joining the fight against cigarette smoking, with several lawmakers leading a bipartisan effort to pass legislation designed to scare smokers into quitting.

The group, which includes LP senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros, is pushing a bill that would require tobacco companies to place “picture warnings” on their products to illustrate the dangers of smoking.

This move by the legislators is in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a May 2003 treaty that includes strategies against the problem of tobacco smoking. The treaty has been ratified by 154 countries, including the Philippines (

In accordance with the treaty provisions, the Philippines has to implement the “picture warning” policy by September 2008, according to Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the FCTC Alliance Philippines.

Maybe Noynoy Aquino can clarify whether he supports this initiative? Maybe Riza Hontiveros can convince her presidential choice to lead this campaign in the Senate?

Or better still, can Noynoy Aquino please clarify his health agenda - does it include an anti-smoking component? Will he support increasing taxes on cigarettes to generate money for lung, larynx, oesophagus, and mouth cancer research and medication?

Studies show that close to 30 percent of Filipino adults smoke even if almost every one in the population is aware of the ill-effects of puffing a cigarette. (

You can count the cigarette addicted Senator in this 30% statistic. But he should be more circumspect in his public actions, or be told clearly that he does not have the license to kill the rest of the Filipino population like you and me.


  1. Sir, sure thing that health is wealth. And as Filipinos and subjects, we should put high premium in expressing concern about the soundness and completeness of our leader's health. But assuming President-elect Aquino doesn't heed his people's call to put smoking away, does that make him less of a chief executive? I believe, as long as his vice (as far as smoking is concerned) does not impinge to the effectivity of his governance, we should, at least, let him keep it. After all what is important is his system of priorities (unlike his predecessor who may have no indulgence for nicotine but led a scandal-torn administration, and assuming service to the people sits on top) and not any of this minutiae. We can look back to the stories of our public servants who smoked and who are no longer with us. A great many of them can be said to have a very laudable record in spite of being nicotine addicts. However, I would like to emphasize that I do not advocate smoking. I am just saying that although he's been publicly put in a very odd position due to a wrong choice of passion, I am sure in the silence of his heart he is thinking of giving it up. Let him have his time. Maybe what we can do at best is keep reminding our president that 'health is indeed wealth'. Thanks for reading, sir. FRS

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