The rise of teenage smoking

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By Henrylito D. Tacio

Regarding Henry

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


A SURVEY conducted by the Department of Health showed that Filipino children as young as five years old are already starting to smoke. On the other hand, the National Youth Commission recently reported that two out of every five Filipino teenagers took up smoking in 2011.

Filipinos start smoking at a young age. An editor-in-chief of a weekly magazine admitted that he started smoking when he was only 14. Until now, he is still hooked with the habit. "If I don't quit smoking, I would probably get lung cancer," he said.

Every year, 87,600 Filipinos die of smoking-related ailments that include lung cancer and chronic lung diseases. "(Smoking) is essentially a man-induced disaster that is causing more deaths than all the fatalities due to natural calamities, vehicular accidents, rebellion and all other disasters, either natural or man-caused," said Dr. Rafael R. Castillo, one of the country's top cardiologists.

In a country where laws abound, there are no national laws prohibiting minors from buying cigarettes. In fact, many vendors of cigarettes are children. Studies show that as many as 40 percent of adolescents boys smoke.

"The majority of adults who smoke cigarettes begin smoking during adolescence," noted The Merck Manual of Medical Information. "If an adolescent reaches the age of 18 to 19 years without becoming a smoker, it is highly unlikely that he will become a smoker as an adult. Factors that increase the likelihood of an adolescent smoking are having parents who smoke, peers who smoke, and poor self-esteem."

Smoking is one of the most common forms of recreational drug use. Today, cigarette smoking is practiced by over one billion people in the majority of all human societies. The history of smoking can be dated to as early as 5000 BC, and has been recorded in many different cultures across the world.

"Tobacco is a dirty weed, but I like it," Graham Lee Hemminger said. "It satisfies no normal need, still I like it. It makes you thin, it makes you lean. It takes the hair right off your bean. It’s the worst darn stuff I’ve ever seen. I like it."

Many people around the world are hooked to smoking and just can't quit. Even President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III couldn’t stop himself from smoking. A former colleague in the senate told reporters that the president smokes about one or two packets a day.

When health groups asked Aquino to quit smoking "to set a good example for the country," Aquino rejected the call. As long as he followed smoking regulations and did not bother anyone, he said he should be free to smoke. "This is one of my few remaining freedoms," the president pointed out.

Smoking is dangerous to your health, so goes the warning. But smokers can't just quit because they are addicted to it.

What makes cigarette smoking so deadly? Well, it contains about 4,000 chemical agents, including over 60 cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, many of these substances, such as carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, and lead, are poisonous and toxic to the human body.

Nicotine is a drug that is naturally present in the tobacco plant and is primarily responsible for a person’s addiction to tobacco products, including cigarettes. During smoking, nicotine is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and travels to the brain in a matter of seconds. Nicotine causes addiction to cigarettes and other tobacco products that is similar to the addiction produced by using heroin and cocaine.

Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, interferes directly with the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. This causes shortness of breath, lack of endurance, and promotes and accelerates narrowing and hardening of the arteries.

The children must know the evils of smoking -- and the government must help. “Protecting children and youth from tobacco is a battle with a well-financed and supremely well-organized adversary,” said Dr. Derek Yach, who was once in-charge with WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative. “If we expect young people to resist tobacco use, it is essential that we provide governments with meaningful, effective alternatives to becoming accessories to tobacco promotion.”

Are there people whom today's youth can emulate? Frankly speaking, there are few movie stars who don’t smoke at all. To name a few: Sean Penn, Pierce Brosnan, Ted Danson, Jeremy London, Esai Morales, and supermodel Christy Turlington. These people are speaking out against smoking.

Children who haven’t tried smoking yet must be told not to touch any cigarette. Not starting the habit is easier than quitting smoking.

Listen to the story of Benjamin, a 45-year-old former chain smoker who started the habit when he was still a teenager: “I quit smoking several years ago, but I still live with the effects of being a one-time nicotine addict. The most sinister one is the knowledge that I can slide back to being a smoker just like that. The addiction is that strong.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 02, 2012.

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