The good news

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Sunday, August 17, 2014


THE Sin Tax Reform Law has reduced the number of Filipino smokers of the country! The government has earned more money through this tax to use in health programs, and less people are buying smoke, especially the young boys in the slums who can now hardly afford to buy cigarettes.

The Sun.Star Sunnex story in total goes this way: “DOH and SWS report that smokers of lower socio-economic standing (class E) are beginning to stop smoking.”

This means much if we realize that, in a 2007 survey of the Department of Health, 1 in 5 Filipino students smoked cigarettes as a habit.

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The success at this stage of the Philippine Sin Tax law, with tax levied especially on opulent items bad for the health—like alcohol and tobacco—has earned an award from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance in the organization's anti-tobacco lobby. In the first months of Philippine sin-taxing this year, tobacco tax collection grew beyond expectation, “outperforming overall tax collections for the period,” as the news goes.

In Russia, the government seems successful, too, in its case of banning smoking. In all these years, the number of young Russians smoking ranks first in the world, 50 percent boys, 40 percent girls of senior grade schoolers. Young smokers are lured into the bad habit by billboard ads, also the availability of cheap cigarettes sold in street stalls almost anywhere in a city.

But this time, cigarette sales have fallen by 6-12 percent, which is a good start for the government’s anti-smoking acts.

About 400,000 Russians die each year from smoking. It's no wonder that the recent ban on smoking in restaurants, cafes and bars, hotels, markets and public transportation was earnestly acted on. If the condition continues, there will be no more smoking areas anywhere, and no ashtrays!
I’m talking this way because I was a smoker myself and stopped smoking when my doctor told me. Now I look back to the smoking time with a relish for being free of it.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee alone in a resto bar early in the morning, waiting for friends to join me for a quick meeting. From where I sat by the window, I saw young kids playing just outside, fooling around. I was enjoying the scene—they moved like no one was looking—until I caught sight of one of them who made it a bad trip for me. This boy, whose age looked like 12 years, stayed more quietly nearest the wall but smoking cigarettes like hell.

Some years ago, you couldn’t find a picture like this of a street scene. The smokers could afford to go to some hideouts of sort where the family wouldn’t be able to catch young men and women smoking. It wasn’t a sin; it was the style of the day, at least of what we friends enjoyed doing. Parents were still against it for they talked of dangers to health. But secret smoking went on—like students smoking in the car when the family driver drove them to school in long trips made longer by the Manila bad traffic.

The time of model Twiggy and her mini-skirt was also a time to smoke, to use smart-looking leather containers of cigarette packs, to be updated on the then latest fashion of lighters for women smokers. In fact, I thought of coming out clean regarding my smoking by telling my father about it at the right time—which was after I graduated and was set for a job like any smoking adult.

I invited a friend to come visit me and it was that time, with the guest present, that I confessed to my parents that I was smoking. If they were angry, they didn’t show it, perhaps not in the presence of our guest. Father had a quiet smile and kept his silence. When my friend left, he talked to me about it.

It was difficult getting off the habit although I made it.

But the future looks even brighter on people’s health with the recent implementation of another anti-smoking law in the Graphic Health Warning Act which will require cigarette manufacturers to display in the pack pictures showing the danger of too much smoking. This act took effect last Thursday. Let’s follow it up.

***

(mail to:ecuizon@gmail.comecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 17, 2014.

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