If you think smoking is cool, you better think again.
Studies show that nine out of 10 adult smokers today started as teens or younger. Tobacco companies intentionally target children as young as 13, because once hooked they could be their steady customers for years.
But not all teens are falling for this marketing ploy because they know that smoking is not healthy. “Today, the youth should realize that smoking is becoming really unfashionable. It’s not something you look up to.. Open your eyes to the dangers that it creates,” said student-athlete Arnold Van Opstal of the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers basketball team.
Arnold is just one of the many athletes of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) supporting the campaign against smoking. The athletes are featured in the “Time’s Up, Tobacco!” video to remind teenagers that there is nothing cool about getting diseases and dying young. The video was done as a response to an online petition aimed to safeguard the youth from deceptive cigarette advertising that packaged smoking as fun and cool.
EJ Laure of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) volleyball team said, “First of all, the youth should not smoke at all because we all know that smoking can kill you.”
Nico Elorde of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Blue Eagles basketball team also recounted his personal experience with the harms of smoking when his grandfather died of lung cancer. Teammate Von Pessumal said, “Cigarette companies are very smart, they know what they’re doing. So they know that if they target younger people they’re going to have much more money.”
The tobacco companies’ deceptive advertisements and marketing tactics is what pushed Arvin Maceda, a 21-year-old student from University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, to start an online petition at Change.org calling on UAAP athletes to raise awareness against youth-targeted campaigns of tobacco companies.
Over 7,300 people signed the online petition which was cited by Change.org in its “Best of 2014” list. The other UAAP athletes who joined the campaign are: Mikee Reyes of UP, EJ Laure of UST, Ryan Monteclaro of Adamson University (AU), Ivan Villanueva of AU, Monica Padilla of UP, Jaysen Cruz of UP, and Patrick Sahol of UP, all of who are now at the forefront of cautioning teenagers against the harmful effects of smoking. Other athletes like Moriah Gingerich and Joseph Rey Gallarza of the UP Fighting Maroons sent pictures of themselves doing the “Time’s Up, Tobacco!” hand sign.
Some notable supporters of the petition include Dr. Anthony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) and Outstanding Filipino Awardee in Medicine (TOFIL), and Dr. Maria Minerva P. Calimag, president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA).
Ako Bicol Party List Representative Rodel Batocabe signed and posted a comment on the petition, “It’s important that these youth who are revered as role models by our Filipino youth, do their own part in the social welfare of the country, starting by making a stand against smoking.” Rep. Batocabe forms part of the “Bicol bloc” of legislators who proposed that graphic health warnings cover 85 percent of cigarette packs.
The petition is part of a public movement initiated by Health Justice Philippines that seeks to make tobacco companies accountable for the harmful effects of their products on both smokers and non-smokers.