“Gusto ko rin mabuhay nang medyo matagal eh (I’d like to live quite longer),” realized 40-year- old farm hauler Irving Caralde of Papaya, Nueva Ecija when he decided to finally be rid of cigarettes after 20 years of smoking.
Caralde was seventeen when he started his daily smoking vice to pass time after every exhausting haul of harvest. His parents, siblings, and peers were smokers themselves, so he felt encouraged to continue the habit.
But two years ago, he was diagnosed with goiter which rendered him weak and unable to withstand longer hours in the field. His doctors cautioned that his smoking could worsen his condition. This was his wake up call.
“’Yong kalusugan ko ginusto ko na rin na ingatan kasi maliliit pa ‘yong mga anak ko eh. Paano na sila kung mawawala ako? (I want to take care of my health because my kids are still young. What happens to them if I die?),” said Caralde who is striving to recover from his illness.
To quit or not to quit? That is the question. These are the only choices to weigh and the answer should be a no-brainer.
For argument’s sake, let’s say, smoking has its benefits that keep users from quitting. Perhaps, it is a stress reliever. Maybe, it plays a role as a social tool and reflects a fashionable lifestyle. Maybe, new alternatives to cigarettes aren’t so bad.
Well, think again. It’s all an illusion, insisted tobacco control and health advocate group, HealthJustice Philippines.
Based on research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine from traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, prompts the release of chemicals in the brain that give a smoker an immediate sense of relaxation. But later, you get irritable or anxious as soon as this perceived stress relief fades. Next thing you know, cravings are triggered and the cycle of addiction begins.
“A common scenario is you reach for a cigarette or vape and sneak in a smoke break in an attempt to unwind after a stressful day. However, the relaxing feeling from smoking or vaping nicotine is temporary. When it wanes, the withdrawal symptoms kicks in, and the urge to smoke intensifies. That’s why it becomes so difficult to quit. So don’t even think about trying it,” said Dr. Daniel Tan, a pulmonologist, and Chairman of HealthJustice.
Even more so, smoking absolutely has no basis as some magical tool to spark social connections or relationships. Depictions of smoking as an accessory to a sophisticated or luxurious lifestyle is
merely a deliberate marketing tactic by tobacco companies to target the vulnerable youth and young adults and lure them to purchase cigarettes or vapes.
“You mingle, share laughs, puff some smoke around, and somehow enjoy a conversation, all the while feeling cool, sexy, fun or in with the hip crowd. This is the image that the tobacco industry wants young people to absorb through their advertisements. It’s a trap,” added Dr. Tan.
In addition to this, tobacco companies, clever as shrews, now offer what they label as “safer” alternatives to conventional cigarettes, in the form of heated tobacco products (HTPs). Their belief, smokers have a right to shift if they choose not to quit.
HTPs work by heating tobacco at a temperature lower than cigarettes with battery-powered systems that then emit nicotine-infused aerosols, based on the latest information sheet of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO also stated that toxicants from HTPs are generally lower than traditional cigarettes. However, this does not translate to reduced health risk. Right now, there is insufficient evidence to prove HTPs are less harmful. HTPs still include nicotine, which is highly addictive. While, some new toxicants found in the emissions are carcinogen that can cause cancer. Much uncertainty remains while little is still known on the long-term health effects of HTPs to users and bystanders until current gaps in research are addressed.
“Clearly, the only safest alternative is stopping the use of any tobacco product, as well as vapes. It is the best choice that saves lives and undoubtedly outweighs any other option by a mile. There is no debating the health benefits of quitting. Having the Big C conversation with your loved ones is much more painful than quitting,” said Dr. Tan.