MANILA -- No matter how you take tobacco into your body — through smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke — it affects not only your lungs but also your entire body.
Emer Rojas, a victim of tobacco and president of cancer support group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said smoking leads to many killer diseases.
"Ang sigarilyo ay may taglay ng mahigit 7,000 kemikal at 70 dito ay maaring magka-cancer ang makalanghap nito. Hindi lang ang humihitit nito ang maaring magkasakit kung hindi pati na ang mga katabing nakakalanghap ng ibinubugang usok nito (Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals, of which 70 are known carcinogens. Smokers are directly affected while others who do not smoke are affected by secondhand smoke if they come near smokers)," he said in a recent interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
While many people already know about this, Rojas said smokers continue to smoke because of addiction.
"Ang paninigarilyo ay mahirap iwasan dahil ito ay may taglay na nicotine na isa sa pinaka addictive substance. Dahil dito ay hindi na maalis ng karamihan ang bisyong ito (Smoking is addictive brought about by the nicotine content of cigarettes. Because of this most people cannot stop this vice)," he added.
Rojas had stage 4 throat cancer at the age of 44. He started smoking when he was 17 years old.
"Tinanggal nila ang vocal chords para alisin ang cancer (They [doctors] removed my vocal chords to stop the cancer from spreading)," he said.
Philippine Society of Medical Oncology president Dr. Jose Garcia Jr. said smoking can cause almost 20 cancers.
"Kasama na diyan ang (These include) cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, nose, sinus, bladder, kidney, urethra, esophagus, pancreas, stomach, liver, cervix, ovary, colon and blood," he said.
Apart from cancers, Philippine Society of Hypertension President Dr. Alberto Atilano, meanwhile, said smoking is one of the main causes of hypertension among adults.
Hypertension or high blood pressure often lead to severe complications and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and even death.
"Ako isang espesiyalista na gumagamot sa altapresyon, para malaman ninyo, two years ago, (I am a specialist treating high blood pressure, and for your information) hypertension societies around the world formally accepted the relationship of smoking and hypertension. We've known about this for a long time, but there's no formal declaration that smoking must be avoided to prevent hypertension and cure hypertension quickly.
Non-smokers could also acquire serious tobacco-related diseases through secondhand smoke.
Child Neurology Society of the Philippines representative Dr. Josefa Victoria Panlilio said this is especially true for children surrounded by adult smokers.
"Children are also indirectly affected by smoking through the second-hand and third-hand smoke, they are more toxic in terms of the residue and this can affect the brain. Diseases like epilepsy, brain tumors, pediatric stroke, cerebral palsy may be caused by it," she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 7 million deaths due to tobacco use worldwide annually. About 260,000 of these cases are child deaths caused by inhalation of secondhand smoke.
Deaths due to secondhand smoking
Apart from child deaths due to secondhand smoke, the increasing rate of teenagers using tobacco has increased alarmingly, especially in third world countries, such as the Philippines.
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) said there had been 3.1 percent increase in school children aged 13 to 15 years old who smoke from 2011 to 2015 nationwide. Most of these children are boys.
GYTS is a school-based survey which enables countries to monitor tobacco use among youth and to guide the implementation and evaluation of tobacco prevention and control programs.
Rojas said it takes a lot of self-control and determination for smokers "to stop this deadly addiction".
"If not possible to abruptly quit smoking, there are many cessation clinics in hospitals such as Lung Center, East Avenue Medical Center, Heart Center and St. Luke's Medical Center," he said.
Higher tobacco excise tax
Referring to the higher excise tax on tobacco, Garcia said one of the effective solutions to discourage people from smoking is to weaken their power to purchase cigarettes as higher tobacco tax would mean pricier cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Garcia added that higher tobacco tax could fund programs for the early diagnosis and prevention of cancers as well as curative and palliative care for cancer patients.
"For example, I cannot give you an exact data on cancer incidence because we are using an old system, the fund from higher tax on tobacco and alcohol the will take care of the National Cancer Registry, it's very important so we can take a lot of researches for the benefit of our cancer patients," he said.
Meanwhile, Rojas said higher cigarette prices make cigarettes less affordable and accessible to the poor and young people.
"It will also prevent would-be smokers from lighting up their first stick," he added.
Thankful of his "second life, Rojas has committed to sharing his health and his life experience to warn people about the dangers of smoking and his family joined him.
Together with his family and NVAP members, Rojas continues to engage in rallies and give speeches and messages through radio and television shows to advocate against smoking and to protect children from its dangers. (PNA)
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