Stop smoking

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Sunday, March 2, 2014


I WAS too early for a play set in CAP along Jones Ave., so I crossed the street and sat inside a coffee shop to wait for the time the CAP would open for the show. I took a seat by the glass window and watched children play by what side there was to the road. Guess what I saw. One of the children, perhaps at the age of from 8 to 10, was smoking like a mad grandpa smoker of the world’s leading tobacco user country, China.

There must be enough teeth to the anti-smoking regulation, law-makers are always amending it, but is there strict implementation of the same? Why can’t we do it like Davao City’s hit in implementing anti-smoking laws?

Some days ago, I read the news about President Noynoy Aquino saying that he is a law-abiding citizen as he smokes in designated smoking areas, like in the Victoria Plaza parking lot in Davao City during a visit there. A good, lawful smoking citizen is what we need, that was what he wanted to convey.

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But he could have stopped smoking and that's the point of the anti-smoking law anywhere in the country. This is to say you could avoid cancer and heart disease, yes, also chronic destructive pulmonary problems. But probably people didn't talk about smoking this way.

Somewhere in the ‘60s, I was part of the young men and women who thought smoking was real cool and I smoked almost a pack a day. We were an element in the market in Marlboro’s act of luring the women into smoking—filtered Marlboro cigarettes. There was even an effect in the market of the color of Marlboro in the packaging.

We were updated on the availability of cigarette lighters and cigarette holders to show off to friends during parties. The addiction was deduced. And somehow, it wasn't all about following a trend but that we were actually addicted to it because cigarettes have nicotine---this our parents kept saying.

On TV and radio, there were ads for cigarettes and young people smoked anywhere except in places where the parents were---at home. Of course, I hid the fact from my parents that I was smoking with the gang. A friend did the same but couldn’t smoke in school, either. She smoked during the early car drive from the house to the school in Makati, or in about half-an-hour's freedom for a time to smoke almost daily inside the car with all windows open. The family chauffeur promised not to tell her parents about it.

How long has the world suffered in smoking?

An early anti-smoking law was made in the Roman Catholic churches in Mexico in 1575. In 1590, the pope at that time threatened to excommunicate those who had tobacco in the porch of or inside the church, also those who chewed or even just sniffed it in powdered form.

The implementation of the anti-smoking law in Davao City is a story to tell. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte first implemented the anti-smoking ordinance in 2000 and through the years from there, the city has earned recognition, like the 2013 Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance Award as the first Asian metropolitan area to become smoke-free.

But it's not just a matter of arrests made (like the total number of people, say, from November to December in 2013 reaching 3,690). There are the task force's activities like the lectures the group conducted in schools, national government offices and in the communities. The people in the lectures don't have to know that four American actors who advertised the Marlboro Man in the ‘50s, posing big and strong while smoking a cigarette, all died of smoke-related diseases.

I stopped smoking when a doctor told me to. I had just bought a whole pack of Marlboro cigarettes and lighting my first stick of the day when I remembered what the doctor said, that my body was surrendering to the demands of as silly as a filtered Malboro stick. And I also thought of what the cigarette business industry does to sell through media---showing fashionable women smoking filtered cigarettes and militant American women in the 19th century fighting for the freedom to smoke.

On that day, I put off the cigarette and threw the stick away, saying quietly that it was making a fool out of me.

*****

(ecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 02, 2014.

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