Friday, March 14, 2008

Smoking 101

Writer and humorist Mark Twain once said: “To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know because I did it a thousand times.”

Why is it hard to quit smoking?

This and other questions were raised in August 28’s episode of “The Correspondents,” – a late-night news and current affairs show on ABS-CBN.

In Tuesday’s episode entitled: “Nagbabaga, Sunog-baga,” Tony Velasquez discussed the negative (and positive) effects of smoking.

As most people know, smoking has negative effects like Lung cancer, Emphysema, heart attacks, and according to a latest study—blindness.


According to statistics, more than half of the Filipino population is not smoke-free—either from firsthand or secondhand smoke.

In another data, 200,000 Filipinos have smoking-related diseases per year.

A survey in 2003 said that the Philippines ranks first in the world in terms of smoking population. According to the survey, 30 percent of Filipinos are smokers, which mean that 20 million Filipinos ranging from 17-75 years old are smokers. The Philippines is followed by Singapore, which has 24.2 percent of their population as smokers. Then, the Americans ranked third, with 24.1 percent of their population as smokers—a .1 percent difference from Singapore.

In one of the show’s featured stories, smoking proved that it also has positive effects.

Smoking doctor

The show featured a senior citizen doctor who still smokes.

Doctors would normally ask their respective patients to quit smoking because it would result in life-threatening illness. But this doctor was different.

Dr. Eric Pascasio, a 76-year-old internist/general practitioner, smokes at least two packs of cigarettes per day.

He even recommends his patients to smoke. He said that based on his experience, smoking has not really proven to have negative effects.

When his patients come to his clinic in his house, he would smoke in front of them as if he was puffing to a rooster as it gets ready to have a cockfight.

Anyone would notice his “love” for smoking because when The Correspondents’ crew went inside his house for the interview, ashtrays were scattered everywhere. He even showed the crew his ashtray inside their bathroom.

He also showed the crew where he keeps his empty cigarette packs. He said that he keeps them because there may be a cigarette promo in the future.

He recalled that even when his wife was already sleeping, he would still hold a cigarette stick and smoke until he got sleepy.

His wife and his children would normally ask him to stop smoking but he won’t listen to them. His wife and children, one of them is also a doctor, are not smokers.

“Without my smoking, I would have died when I was younger,” the senior chain-smoker said.

Celebrity challenge

Another featured story of the show was a celebrity challenge on Uma Khouny, a former Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Housemate. Khouny, a certified smoker, was challenged to see how long he could resist the smoking temptation.

The challenge started at 9 a.m. After one hour, he was okay. After three hours, he was getting restless. He was also getting talkative.

The challenge was supervised by the cameraman to monitor Khouny’s behavior and to know when he will give up the challenge.

He jokingly offered 200 pesos and his car keys in exchange for the cameraman to turn off the camera so the audience would not see that he is already smoking.

Finally, Uma Khouny gave up the challenge at 5 p.m. He lasted for eight hours. He said that he could not take it anymore. It was like a record for him on his eight-hour “abstinence.”

Smoking kids of Payatas

Another featured story was about the smoking children of Payatas, Quezon City.

Buboy, Choy, and Ken, all 12 years old, are Payatas children who knew how to smoke when they were just ten years old.

They knew how to smoke because of their older friends. They would often be “neglected” by their friends if they would not smoke. Worried by this, they would be forced to smoke so they could maintain their friendship with them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that people learned to smoke from advertisements and from peer pressure.

Another data from WHO said that the Philippines has the most young smokers in the world and that one of five young Filipinos knew how to smoke when they were just ten years old.

Many anti-smoking campaigns were launched in the past like Senator Juan Flavier’s “Yosi: Kadiri” Campaign and Philippine General Hospital’s ongoing campaign: “Stop Smoking Clinic.” This is a program wherein people who join are taught how to stop smoking for four weeks. The program has been successful since it started.

Many people have been successful in quitting smoking like Dick Abeleda—who quit his 40-year-old smoking habit because of a near growth of a malignant tumor. He also quit smoking because one of his children suffered Tuberculosis while he was still smoking.

As long as smoking is still present in the lives of people, there will still be the problems accompanying it.

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