Posts Tagged ‘smoking’

pop goes the world: killing you softly

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 November 2012, Thursday

Killing You Softly

We have known for decades that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption kill.

But despite near-constant bombardment with anti-smoking and moderate-drinking advertisements that have used all the persuasive approaches from soft-sell to fear-arousing communication, people still persist in the habit, making lung cancer and cirrhosis among the top causes of death in the Philippines.

A strong anti-smoking ad using FAC. Image here.

Now lawmakers have passed the “Sin Tax” bill that will raise revenue for the government while attempting to curb the health risks that go with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 5727 last June, while the Senate, voting 15-2, passed their own version – Senate Bill 3299 – the other night. The versions will be reconciled in a bicameral session, after which the final version of the bill will be presented to the President.

The Lower House version would generate an additional P30 billion in revenue for the government from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The Senate version would harvest around P40 billion by imposing a unitary tax of P26 per cigarette pack by 2017 on a tiered rate increase scheme, while rate increases on alcohol taxes are to start next year, also on a tiered basis.

What would be the effect of higher taxes on these “sin” products”?

There is an infographic on the Internet that portrays likely scenarios based on a nationwide survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies last August.

The poll findings show that 23 percent of Filipino adults smoke “regularly” (at least weekly). Of the Filipino adult population, only 4 percent of females smoke regularly while 42 percent of males do. Among the poorest – the Class E demographic – 27 percent smoke.

Should the Sin Tax bill be finally imposed, it was projected that 17 percent will stop smoking immediately, 31 percent will slowly stop smoking, 19 percent will buy a cheaper brand, 25 percent will lessen their consumption, while only 8 percent would continue the habit and to buy the same brand.

The infographic wound up with this takeaway: “…half of regular smokers will possibly quit their vice.”

Tobacco farmers and alcohol product factory workers descended en masse upon the Senate last Monday to protest the passage of the Bill, which they said would take away their livelihoods.

But SB 3299 has planned for that – it sets aside P750 million for programs to benefit displaced tobacco farmers.

Aside from P2 billion for tax administration, it also allocates P23 billion in health insurance for families, P750 million for an anti-smoking campaign, P100 million yearly for regional hospitals and medical centers, and P10 million for each of 618 district hospitals.

The Department of Health, under Secretary Enrique T. Ona, has programs for preventive health care that emphasize “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Among these are the Violence and Injury Prevention Program (accidents being one of the top causes of morbidity in the country), National Dengue Prevention and Control Program, National STI/HIV Prevention Program, National Rabies Control and Prevention Program, and the Smoking Cessation Program.

For its part, government charity arm Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office gives financial assistance for the medical bills of people suffering from lung cancer and liver-related ailments.

So while the government earns from added taxes on smokes and drinks, it also spends on health programs that will alleviate and cure the illnesses caused by these products.

Would it not be better if people just quit smoking and avoided drinking to excess – or didn’t’ start at all?

Preventive health care helps preserve a person’s health and ensure a better quality of life by minimizing or reducing the risk of disease by avoiding possible risk factors that are under an individual’s control. Doctors have for many years been advocating lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding carcinogenic substances like tobacco and alcohol.

But it seems it needs this Sin Tax to break people of their smoking addiction. If the forecasts come true and half of all current smokers will quit because of the higher taxes on tobacco, then we should see a lower incidence of lung cancer in the coming years.

Smoking kills. This is not just a tagline, it’s the truth. We all know people – family, friends – who have died from lung cancer or emphysema. It’s not a good way to go – the oxygen tanks and plastic tubes up the nostrils, the strained and desperate heaving to catch another breath, the slow decay and rotting from inside over many agony-filled years.

Perhaps the Sin Tax will finally shake smokers from their fog-bound addiction to ditch the habit and adopt a healthier lifestyle to have more quality time to spend with their loved ones.

It’s about time, Philippines. Stop killing yourself slowly.  ***

“Smoke-free in Manila” image here.

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pop goes the world: do we need another hero?

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 3 June 2010, Thursday

Do We Need Another Hero?

President-elect Noynoy Aquino has come under public scrutiny lately for not wanting to quit smoking and for short-listing television talk-show host Boy Abunda for a high government position.

Stop laughing, this is serious. The smoking thing started when Aquino was asked if he would quit for World ‘No Tobacco’ Day on May 31. Obviously uncomfortable with the question, he said he is not inclined to give up the habit as it would pressure him more – and forget about the promise he made to quit smoking if he wins the elections.

Aquino steps outside Carmel church for a smoke. Image here.

In a recent speech, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon called tobacco use “ugly and deadly” and urged “all governments to address this deadly threat.” The World Health Organization says tobacco-related diseases are the second-highest cause of death globally after hypertension, killing one in 10 adults. It is an epidemic that is “preventable” with the strong support of government.

For this reason, Department of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and several non-government organizations have urged Aquino to kick the vice, citing “leadership by example” and the difference he could make in the lives of the country’s smokers via his example. However, Cabral acknowledges that it’s Aquino’s choice to continue, “as long as he does not smoke in front of others or harm them with his smoking.”

Come on, he’s not going to light up in the bathroom or closet. He’s the president and he’ll smoke where he pretty darn pleases.

Cabral perceives Aquino as having influence as a role model, which is a symbolic function. A role model is a person whose way of life serves as a source of inspiration for others to transform themselves for the better. He becomes a sign for what is good and worthy of emulation.

Why is he seen as such? As a public figure, he lives his life in the media, his behavior and actions subject to everyone’s observation, deconstruction, speculation, and outright fabrication. That comes with the territory. Don’t complain. You can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Yet Aquino remains cool and unflappable. He makes decisions as he deems fit. For one, he mused on tapping Abunda’s media and marketing expertise for the government, also citing his stature as an “icon” and his effectivity in communicating ideas to his audience. Noynoy has said he wants to offer Abunda a position as undersecretary or assistant secretary – pretty high up the food chain for someone who is not career government.

Pundits criticize this choice, saying there are many other candidates better suited for the position. Abunda himself has defused the situation by saying that he wants a “simple life”, and that he is still under contract to the ABS-CBN network. A successful businessman, he certainly earns more in entertainment and through his other entrepreneurial activities.

Boy Abunda: celebrity icon. Image here.

Apart from the connection via friendship (Abunda is very close to Noynoy’s sister, talk show host Kris Aquino, and was also the family spokesperson upon the death of Kris and Noynoy’s mother, former president Corazon Aquino), the president-elect is showing just how powerful the influence of popular culture is. Because Abunda, by dint of his engaging performance on air, has become wildly popular among his viewers, he is seen as an “effective communicator”. For running a successful talent management company, he is deemed to have marketing and business skills of the caliber to run a government agency.

What does that say about the Filipino, when the incoming head of state – his image also largely a product of popular culture – relies upon the icons of media to help with the “marketing” of a country?

It says that the power of popular culture should not be underestimated, and that those who wield it have immense responsibility, for they can use their influence for good – or evil.

Looking at Aquino’s choice of Abunda from another angle, it is the acquisition of the talents of people from showbiz (and other private industries) for the public good, or “privatization”. In the US, a comedian wants Steve Jobs to become president and reverse the economic meltdown. He did it for Apple – two million iPads have been sold since it was launched two months ago, and its market capitalization has surpassed Microsoft’s, for years the giant in the IT world. The idea is, if it works there, it’ll also work here. But that’s not necessarily so. Private success does not always translate into public effectivity.

To sum up, Aquino is not a “good role model” for refusing to ditch cancer sticks and for being swayed by popular culture and personal agenda when making some decisions that have national repercussions.

But we didn’t elect him to be the national role model or hero. That’s Jose Rizal. We voted Aquino in as president. His job is to make the right choices, set the right priorities, and do what needs to be done. Government corruption, poverty elimination, culture of impunity – the list of issues that need reforms is inexhaustible.

The National Hero’s image on a banknote.

Good governance is the toughest job of all – harder even than quitting smoking. And if the president struggles, we all struggle – the political equivalent of inhaling second-hand smoke.

A Wise Guy friend says, “Stop looking for messiahs. Wala sa Wowowee at Star Talk ang pag-asa. It’s not the president’s job to create co-dependents; dapat lang maiahon niya ang bayan sa kahirapan.” And it is our job as citizens and members of media to keep him on track, give him feedback from the grassroots, and tell him whether or not he’s doing the job we elected him for. ***

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