Philippines - DOH campaign for 100% smoke-free workplaces..

February 24, 2010 - "Speak up, nonsmokers! Let smokers around you know that you mind.” The call was made by Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who is spearheading a campaign for “100 percent smoke-free workplaces” nationwide.

In a Department of Health (DOH) news release, Cabral reminded the public that smoking is strictly prohibited in all government offices, hospitals and health clinics, as well as schools, nationwide. Tobacco Control Act in 2003. Smoking is allowed only in designated and marked outdoor smoking areas, located at least 10 meters away from any place where people congregate or pass by. Smoking area signages must be prominently displayed.

These provisions are stipulated under the Civil Service Commission's Memorandum Circular No. 17 (Series of 2009). The policy is designed to “promote safe and healthy workplaces and to protect government workers from secondhand smoke, which can cause life threatening diseases,” Cabral said.

Workers exposed to second-hand smoke “have a 35-50 percent increased risk of heart disease. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke nearly doubles the risk of a heart attack. Moreover, workers exposed to secondhand smoke at work have a 25 percent elevated risk of lung cancer,” according to the DOH. “The effects of secondhand smoke on lung functions are similar to smoking a few sticks (of cigarettes) a day. It can cause emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks,” the DOH added.

Cabral claimed “seven out of ten smokers want to quit smoking.” She hoped smoke-free policies would help smokers quit "by reducing environmental triggers and not allowing smoking to be the norm.” The anti-smoking campaign by DOH and anti-tobacco advocates in the country is “gaining momentum as many Filipinos are against exposure to secondhand smoke,” she added.

According to a DOH-commissioned Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, about 27 percent of Filipinos smoke. “The proportion of smokers to nonsmokers is about the same in Luzon and the Visayas, but slightly higher in Mindanao (30 percent),” said the SWS survey conducted in the last quarter of 2009. By income class, more smokers were found in the lowest income class E (31 percent), followed by class D, (26 percent) and the upper classes A, B and C, 21 percent. By sex, 46 percent of smokers were males while only 8 percent were females. By age, 30 percent of smokers belonged to the 35-44 age bracket, followed by 26 percent in the 18-24 age group, and 22 percent in the 55 and above group. By educational attainment, 20 percent of those who completed college and up to 32 percent of those with no formal education were smokers.

The SWS study also revealed that “only 57 percent of Filipinos said they have never smoked” and that “the average consumption is about 11 cigarette sticks per day.”

The majority of the survey respondents are “aware of tobacco regulation laws in the country.” They also “recognize the health benefits from laws enforcing smoke-free areas.”

“Opposition to secondhand smoke was pegged at 93 percent nationwide. It was strongest in the Visayas (95 percent), followed by Luzon (92 percent) and Mindanao (91 percent).

Philippines - June is annually observed as 'No Smoking' Month.

Reference: by Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2/24/2009.

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