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Health expert weighs in on importance of smoking ban in public places, indoors

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 3/18/2017 Cabotaje , Kenette Gelyn
For SmokeFreePH-sponsored article © Provided by GMA News Online For SmokeFreePH-sponsored article

President Rodrigo Duterte has put on hold the signing of the executive order on a nationwide smoking ban, after saying he still needs to review the proposal and get the views of medical experts.
“I’d need the pronouncements, not really the opinion, the pronouncements of our medical sector,” he told reporters in Malacanang  last week. “And they should be also in the forefront of this because they know the benefits of totally banning smoking inside.”
The proposed measure prohibits smoking in public places and designating smoking areas inside establishments.
Following this, Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association, Inc. President Edilberto Garcia Jr., whose organization focuses on programs such as tobacco control, weighed in on the importance of prohibiting smoking in public areas, especially indoors.
“Doctors and the people agree—only 100 percent smoke-free indoor public places provide the health and opportunity we deserve, whether we are workers, visitors or customers,” he says. “By signing a 100 percent smoke-free policy, the Philippines will join the list of visionary leaders that are changing the course of the tobacco epidemic in the world.” 
“This will mean prioritizing the health of the Filipino people, and not the profits of the tobacco corporations.”
Garcia shares his experience with the effects of smoking, “Every week in my clinic I see people harmed by secondhand smoke, especially among infants, children, and members of their household.” 
“The science is clear—secondhand smoke can cause a range of harms, including respiratory illness, impaired lung function, middle ear disease in children, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” the doctor explains. “In adults, it can cause lung cancer, stroke, asthma attacks, and among pregnant women, delivery of low birth weight infants.”
The latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey says tens of millions of Filipinos are exposed to secondhand smoking every month, with more than 55 percent being exposed to secondhand smoking in public transportation, 33 percent in restaurants, and 77 percent in a place with no formal anti-smoking policy.
“We call it the invisible killer,” says Garcia. “Because the harm isn't just in the smoke you can see—nearly 85 percent of tobacco smoke is invisible and odourless, but causes just as much harm.”
Citing several studies, Garcia says designated smoking areas still harm non-smokers. “The tobacco industry’s own research shows that ventilation systems don’t work, and yet they continue to push smoking rooms,” he states.  
“Why? Because 100 percent smoke-free laws will impact their profits. As people become accustomed to clean air and non-smoking becomes normalized, smokers are more likely to cut down and quit,” Garcia explains. 
“Comprehensive smoke-free laws aren't just good for health, as we saw in Davao and have seen across the world. 100 percent smoking bans do not harm business,” the doctor claims. “When well enforced, they drive healthy and thriving workplaces, restaurants and bars, and are hugely popular with the public—most of whom don't smoke.”
He concludes, “When President Duterte spoke of a 100 percent smoke-free policy, it gave me hope—that someday soon I will be treating fewer infants and children with middle ear disease and that it would lessen cancer patients and stroke victims.”
“It gave the public hope that they can one day enjoy public spaces free from noxious, harmful secondhand smoke. President Duterte can make our hopes a reality.”

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