30-M Filipinos exposed to cigarette smoke at home

By Jenny F. Manongdo – Some 29.8 million Filipinos are exposed to cigarette smoke inside their homes, a national survey said, prompting health authorities to campaign against smoking even inside homes and in public places.

The first Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) revealed that “almost half of Filipinos,” or 48.8 percent of those who were surveyed, are inhaling tobacco smoke inside their dwellings while 54 percent, representing 32.9 million of the population reported that someone smokes inside their homes.

The GATS 2009 gathered a total of 9,705 individuals 15 years old and above living in rural and urban areas nationwide. The number represents 61.3 million Filipinos in this age bracket.

Interestingly, the knowledge, perception and attitude of the surveyed population on the ill effects of tobacco smoking were high.

Ninety-four percent of them know that smoking causes serious diseases; 95.6 percent believe that smoking can cause lung cancer, 81.3 percent believe smoking can lead to heart attack, and 75.5 percent are aware that smoking can cause stroke.

Ironically, while 65.4 percent of the respondents related that their workplaces disallow smoking in any closed area, 13.9 percent were exposed to second-hand smoke in the past 30 days when the survey was conducted.

The survey also found that Filipino smokers spend an average of P326.4 monthly for cigarettes.

Furthermore, four in every five Filipino adults are exposed to anti-cigarette campaigns. The highest exposure was seen in TV (59.7 percent); and mostly in healthcare facilities (47.2 percent).

Also, more than half of commuters or 55.3 percent of respondents representing almost 28 million Filipinos are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Consequently, one in every three Filipinos who visited a restaurant during the time the study was conducted also got exposed to second-hand smoke.

The GATS was conducted in the last quarter of 2009. Health officials declared the study as the official baseline for smoking prevalence in the country.

Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral said it is imperative to place achievable measures to curb the smoking habit in the country.

“With 17.3 million adult current smokers, 80 percent of whom are currently daily smokers, it is critical that our government places a priority on strong tobacco control legislation and action… The Philippines has yet to fulfill its commitment to promulgate graphic health warnings, which we were supposed to have complied with last September of 2008. We need to work towards achieving this commitment and need to work fast towards a 100 percent smoke-free environment,” she said.

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