FILIPINOS URGED TO CHOOSE HEALTH, STAMP TOBACCO OUT
In observance of the World No Tobacco Day 2018, the Department of Health (DOH) today urged the public to Choose Health in three ways: (1) quitting the use of tobacco products, (2) supporting smoke-free environments, and (3) not initiating smoking.  
 
Adopting this year’s theme from the World Health Organization (WHO), “Tobacco Breaks Hearts,” the health department communicates the devastating effects that tobacco use and exposure from secondhand smoke do to heart health.
 
Globally, tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke contribute to approximately 12 percent of all heart disease deaths, as data from WHO showed.
 
Meanwhile, ischemic heart diseases or the “hardening of arteries” continue to be the leading cause of death in the Philippines with more than 74,000 cases recorded in 2016. Moreover, the Philippine Statistics Authority lists five other non-communicable diseases linked to smoking as top causes of deaths and diseases among Filipinos namely, cancers, stroke, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, other heart diseases. These are known to be strongly linked to four risk factors, one of which is tobacco use.
 
“I would like to reiterate that tobacco use and breathing secondhand smoke may indeed break your heart. You may have heard this a million times, smoking is dangerous to your health, but we still want to remind you every time we have a chance. Tobacco smoke thickens the blood, increases the risk of blood clots, narrows the arteries and restricts oxygen in the blood,” said Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.
 
Hence, the health chief shared three ways by which the public can choose to prioritize their health and save themselves from various diseases of the heart. 
 
Quit Smoking
 
First, the health chief advised current smokers to quit smoking and seek help through phone-supported tobacco cessation called Quitline. Launched last year, Quitline (165-364) provides real-time counselling and support.
 
“With the Quitline, Filipino smokers now have an easier, accessible way to put into action their intention to quit smoking,” said Secretary Duque.
 
According to the Tobacco Free Initiative’s Factsheet about health benefits of smoking cessation when an individual quits smoking, within 20 minutes his heart rate and blood pressure drops. Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal and within a year, if the smoker ceases to use tobacco, his risk of coronary heart diseases reduces to about half compared to a current smoker. In 5 years, stroke risk is reduced to that of non-smoker.
 
Support smoke-free places
 
Secretary Duque also highlighted the importance of smoke-free environments that prevent smoking uptake among non-smokers and promotes quitting among current tobacco users.
 
“The DOH supports the strengthening of existing measures on tobacco control. For one, the Executive Order no. 26 on nationwide smoking ban is most essential,” Secretary Duque said.
 
The health department likewise encouraged local government units to pass stringent ordinances in support of EO 26 and added that the DOH is very much willing to provide technical assistance as needed.
 
Preventing tobacco use among youth
 
Last but most importantly, the health chief continued to encourage the youth to make informed decision and keep away from initiating tobacco use.
 
“We call upon our youth to make informed decisions and make smart use of technology. With abundance of information available in the web, we hope everyone gets the right content from credible sources,” Duque said.
 
" You may visit the DOH or WHO website and Facebook pages and see for yourself the truth about tobacco products.  In the age of misinformation, it’s time to be more mindful about what we get and where we get our facts,” he added.
 
The Department of Health will hold a series of activities until June as the observance of National No Smoking Month begins next month.