Philippines: Batangas heightens smoking intervention program

11 June 2018:

BATANGAS CITY — The provincial government, through the Provincial Health Office (PHO), is enhancing its tobacco intervention program as it intensifies the establishment of smoke-free environments in public and enclosed places in the province by cascading information and awareness through the local health workers.

Batangas public information office chief Jenelyn A. Aguilera told Philippine News Agency on Monday that the PHO, in close coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) 4-A Regional Office, has convened health workers throughout the province for a two-day orientation and briefings last June 7 to 8 on the government’s tobacco intervention program.

Aguilera said the attendees included provincial medical personnel, Municipal Health Officers (MHOs); City Health Officers (CHOs); public health nurses from the different district hospitals and Rural Health Units (RHUs) with resource persons from the DOH 4-A and PHO.

Topping the agenda in the gathering among health workers here is the Executive Order No. 26 on “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places” signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last May 16, 2017.

The Presidential issuance calls for a strict smoking ban in all public and enclosed places nationwide, clearly defining all places as fixed or mobile that are accessible or open to the public or places for collective use, whether government or privately-owned.

But health authorities here assessed that many Filipinos and even foreigners are either not complying or unaware of the law’s enforcement covering public places such as schools, workplaces, government facilities, establishments that provide food and drinks, accommodation, merchandise, professional services, entertainment or other services.

They explained that the smoking ban also applies to public convergence areas which also include outdoor spaces, such as playgrounds, sports grounds, centers, church grounds, health/hospital compounds, transportation terminals, markets, parks, resorts, walkways, sidewalks, entrance ways, waiting areas, and similar areas.

They also noted that mobile public conveyances include open or for collective use such as elevators, airplanes, ships, jeepneys, buses, tricycles, taxicabs, trains, light rail transits and similar vehicles.

According to the DOH 4-A, while the Presidential directive also underscores that “public health takes precedence over any commercial or business interest,” many Filipinos, especially among the government workers, are guilty of not complying with the EO.

In an interview, DOH Senior Health Program Officer Maria Theresa Malubag said that they were intensifying awareness and consciousness among the local health workers so they could help smokers quit smoking and avert other individuals from being tempted to be lured into smoking.

Malubag explained that their tobacco intervention program includes requesting patients to be diagnosed of certain illnesses or diseases to also respond to medical practitioners’ inquiries on their smoking history and those of the family members’ smoking background.

She said those undergoing the Brief Tobacco Intervention and Smoking Cessation Program are given self-help materials and professional medical advice and counseling provided by health institutions in their localities.

She added that this program is a step towards gradual purging of the smoking habit and averting addiction of the smokers to the tobacco products, thus lowering the number of tobacco dependents in the province, in particular and the country, in general.

Meanwhile, Dr. Marilou Espiritu, DOH 4-A Medical Officer III for the Health and Wellness Program, also presented the “Briefer on Intervention to Nicotine Addiction and Essential Intervention Program.

She also informed local health workers here on the ill effects of smoking through the “Three Links of Tobacco Dependence,” namely biological , psychological and socio-cultural dependence.

Source: Manila Bulletin