By Mae A. Hernandez
Just this semester, the UP administration implemented a stricter smoking ban in all its systems throughout the country. For the administration, it aims to promote awareness about the health risks that can be gotten from smoking tobacco.
In the memorandum distributed among all colleges of the UP system, the policy is in accordance with the three “legal obligations:” 1) the Constitution declares states universities to “instill health consciousness among the people,” 2) in response to the WHO Framework convention on Tobacco control where the Philippines is a state party, and 3) to implement R.A. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.
The new policy has given the Chancellors, deans, heads of offices, faculty administrators and security personnel the authority to fully implement and observe total smoking ban. It also forbids business concessionaires, big and small, in selling and advertising any tobacco product within 100 meters of the campus’ outer perimeter.
Given these restrictions imposed by the administration, it still gave consideration on the part of those who smoke. However, the deal is conditional. Based on the memorandum, one is free to smoke outside the building except from “entrances, exits or close to any place where non-smokers will pass.” Even waiting sheds, sidewalks, parking spaces, parks and similar places were prohibited for smoking. Proper signs are also emphasized to ensure if the objectives of the policy are met.
Sacrifice has to be made
This situation is what every student is experiencing as they face a day in the campus. Mina (not her real name) is a 3rd year Communication Research student. She admits she had gained addiction to smoking.
“I officially started smoking last sem dahil sa pressure sa school, mga personal problems, at exposure sa smokers,” she said.
In a day, she takes only five to seven sticks. But she already considers herself as a person addicted to smoking. She personally buys a pack of her favorite cigarette than getting or sharing a stick from someone. For her, the policy on smoking ban has motives or hidden agenda that have to be disclosed.
“Although naglagay sila ng smoking area, inconvenient siya kasi di ka naman makakaupo, so yung comfortability of smoking wala. Smoking kasi it’s a personal choice. We should not impose total smoking ban and say to someone to stop smoking. So in a way it is propaganda—to forcefully stop the students to smoke,” Mina said.
The kind of behavior that Mina is showcasing can be traced through our sociological roots. Filomin Gutierrez, a professor in Department of Sociology in UP Diliman believes that smoking has become pervasive in the Philippine society because it is a solitary habit. She said since humans are naturally social, they want to fit in any group. The pressure to appear “cool’ to other people sends a sense of belongingness and affirmation of being part of a particular group.
Furthermore, history has detailed accounts on how addiction of smoking propagated in Filipinos’ social and cultural being. In the 19th century, tobacco was a key product of the Philippines. The Spanish government then controlled and extracted revenue from the tobacco production. As one of the main crops back then, Filipinos got dependent on the components of tobacco.
“We can treat [smoking] as an indigenous practice kasi marami talaga ang nagssmoke ng tobacco pero nareinforce ito nang nagkaroon na ng commercialization ng tobacco as a product,” Prof. Gutierrez said.
The commercialization of tobacco began in Canada. Trades made the proliferation of the tobacco consumption throughout the globe as the 19th century progressed. When the Suez Canal was opened for ships to pass, the Galleon Trade started to change the lives of the people especially the Filipinos. Tobacco products that are coming from the Philippines gained popularity in some nations. In 1880, the monopoly of the government on tobacco had ended but the country has remained as one of the consistent exporter of tobacco in Victorian parlors in Britain, the whole Europe, and North America.
At present, tobacco seems to maintain its position as one of the most wanted commodity of the Filipinos. Based on the WHO report, tobacco companies are among the top 10 advertisers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines. As a result, among WHO Regions, the Western Pacific Region – which covers East Asia and the Pacific – has the highest smoking rate, with nearly two-thirds of men smoking.
Tobacco smoking has really altered the way people live their lives. Approximately, about 60 percent of Filipino men smoke according to the 2002 WHO report. This number undermines the potential risks that the addiction of smoking can bring to their health. As for the UP administration, it is a responsible action for them to implement total smoking ban.
Gutierrez echoed this standpoint. “I think the administration has seen the general trend in science through the reality of lung cancer and the harmful effects that smoking brings to the passive smokers,” she said.
The administration reasons thatthe no smoking ban is in compliance with the national objectives. However, it keeps mum about the questions that have arisen with the policy’s implementation. Uncertainties will continue to linger throughout the university.
World Health Organization’s Smoking Statistics http://www.wpro.who.int/media_centre/fact_sheets/fs_20020528.htm