Cigarette smoking is a major public health problem globally. According to the WHO, smoking is the second most important cause of death worldwide and is currently responsible for 5 million death each year. There are three billion cigarette smokers worldwide of which 112 million are in India. Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause 800,000 deaths annually in India. The WHO predicts that tobacco deaths in India may exceed 1.5 million annually by 2020.
Filipino health professionals and medical organizations, along with the private healthcare sector, are underscoring the importance of medical intervention and support in the form of more prevalent and accessible smoking cessation clinics, in order to successfully help more smokers kick the deadly habit.
The call is made to kick off the commemoration of the Philippines “No Smoking Month” in June.
At a press conference held at the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), doctor groups highlighted the vital role that smoking cessation clinics play in creating strong community support for patients who wish to quit.
Smoking is an addiction that takes more than just simple willpower to successfully abandon, according to Dr. Anthony Leachon, immediate past president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP).
Dr. Leachon explains:
“Ineptitude is the inability to do what is right despite knowledge and education. We are all aware that despite knowing that smoking is bad, and that it has adverse health effects, a lot of our countrymen still continue to smoke, or are unable to quit.”
According to data from the 2013 National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHeS), smoking prevalence among the current smokers has dropped to 25.4 percent of the population from 31 percent in 2008.
With the achievements of the government in the implementation of 100% smoke-free environments and the sin tax law to discourage tobacco consumers, “we have proven that all educational drives would be best complemented by an aspect of shaping the smokers’ environment,” explains Dr. Leachon.
This is where smoking cessation clinics come into the picture. Such facilities are especially designed and designated to receive patients who wish to finally quit smoking.
Dedicated health professionals manning the clinic guide patients step by step, from initial case assessment to drawing up and observing a strict behavioral plan on quitting.
Most importantly, programs in smoking cessation clinics also include valuable pharmacological intervention, or medical solutions in order to address the physiological aspects of smoking.
A serious health concern in the Philippines
Many smokers who seek help are those who are already suffering from ailments and diseases related to the habit.
“Most of the time, not until the smoker starts experiencing the health consequences of smoking does he or she realize it is a medical issue that needs to be addressed,” explains Dr. Glynna Ong Cabrera, who heads the smoking cessation clinic at the LCP.
Smoking causes cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke; diabetes; malignancies or cancer; and chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma. These noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of adult mortality and morbidity worldwide and in the Philippines.
Among the identified risk factors contributing to NCDs, tobacco is considered responsible for more than two-thirds of lung cancer; 40 percent of chronic respiratory diseases; and 10 percent of cardiovascular diseases. An estimated six million people die from tobacco use each year. In the country, it kills ten Filipinos every hour.
Overcoming challenges to continuous progress
The call for the establishment of smoking cessation clinics is in line with the findings of the 2011 assessment of the government’s efforts under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO–FCTC).
“The country has, for its part, made substantial strides and achievements, most important of which is the passing and implementation of the sin tax law, the restriction of tobacco advertising and promotion, as well as the application of strong graphic warnings on tobacco products,” says Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).
Many local government units have also made great progress in passing smoke-free ordinances that prohibit smoking indoors and in public places, notes Dr. Limpin.
However, among the significant challenges in the Philippines that the assessment team identified include the need for a coordinated national cessation infrastructure across the country, in order to effectively implement the national cessation policy.
Alongside the DOH’s program focusing on smoking cessation in government hospitals in the Philippines, the PCP is similarly pushing for mandate among its member hospitals to establish smoking cessation centers.
“With this move, we are optimistic in helping bring down the smoking population in the Philippines, as well as reduce the burden of disease,” concludes Dr. Leachon.
The private sector of the medical and pharmaceutical industry is also backing the drive against smoking cessation in the country. “For our part, Pfizer Philippines strongly supports the nationwide campaign against the habit of smoking in line with our ultimate goals of improving health and well-being at every stage of life,” states corporate affairs director Gerrard Anthony Paez.