by Bubot V. Sueta, JUNE 2022
Globally, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year from direct use and exposure to second-hand smoke. Locally, there are 16.6 million Filipino adult tobacco users.
Among Filipino students aged 13 to 15 years old, tobacco use increased from 13.7% in 2011 to 16% in 2015 based on the Global Youth Tobacco Survey. Moreover, 42.7% of Filipino students have already heard of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and 11.7% of them already tried or experimented with the device.
For the past decade, the Philippines has made great strides in implementing policy reforms that aim to reduce the burden of tobacco use. Aside from tax measures, the government successfully pushed for the legislation of several non-tax policies and population-level interventions to address the threat of tobacco usage. This includes Executive Order No. 106 (s. 2020) which complements RA 11467 (alcohol and e-cig taxes) by expanding the coverage of the public smoking ban in public places to include e-cigarettes.
The passage of Republic Act No. 11467 last January 2020 increased taxes on heated tobacco and vapor products, set the minimum allowable age for sale and distribution of these products to 21 years old, limited the flavors of the juice/solution to plain tobacco and plain menthol, and strengthened the role of the FDA in regulating these products.
What are the effects of smoking and tobacco?
What happens in your body
When you smoke, harmful chemicals enter your lungs and spread through your body. They can:
- reach your brain, heart, and other organs within 10 seconds of your first puff
- go everywhere your blood flows, harming every part of your body.
Even if you don’t inhale tobacco smoke, you still absorb harmful chemicals through the lining of your mouth.
How you become addicted?
The nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive. It makes your brain release a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘feel good’ chemical that:
- makes you feel happy
- helps you to concentrate
- gives you more energy.
But this effect doesn’t last long.
As the nicotine levels in your body fade, your brain craves more dopamine. The longer you have been smoking, the more dopamine you need to feel good. You become dependent on nicotine.
Once you are dependent on nicotine, without it you will have withdrawal symptoms. You may find it difficult to concentrate or feel nervous, restless, irritable, or anxious.
These two things — nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal — make you want to smoke more. You become addicted to tobacco.
How tobacco damages your body
The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage your body in many ways. For example:
- Nicotine narrows your veins and arteries. This can
- damage your heart by forcing it to work faster and harder
- slow your blood and reduce oxygen to your feet and hands.
- Carbon monoxide deprives your heart of the oxygen it needs to pump blood around your body. Over time, your airways swell up and let less air into your lungs.
- Tar is a stickysubstance that coats your lungs like soot in a chimney.
- Phenols paralyse and kill the hair-like cells in your airways. These cells sweep clean the lining of your airways and protect them against infections.
- Tiny particles intobacco smoke irritate your throat and lungs and cause ‘smoker’s cough.’ This makes you produce more mucus and damages lung tissue.
- Ammonia and formaldehyde irritate your eyes, nose, and throat.
- Cancer-causing chemicals make your cells grow too fast or abnormally. This can result in cancer cells.
How tobacco affects the way you look
Smoking tobacco can:
- cause yellow-brown stains on your fingers, tongue, and teeth
- increase your risk of tooth loss and bad breath
- make your skin saggy and give you early wrinkles
- make your hair lose its natural shine.
If you smoke, you:
- reduce your life expectancy and your quality of life
- increase your risk of conditions and diseases as well as of dying prematurely.
It can be a long time before smokers get a smoking-related condition or disease. Because of this, some people believe it will not happen to them.
In fact, up to ⅔ of long-term smokers will:
- die of a smoking-related disease
- have their life cut short by about 10 years on average, compared to non-smokers.
There is also growing evidence to suggest that smoking has a negative impact on mental health. For example, some studies show that smoking is associated with increased rates of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, suicide attempts and schizophrenia.
Some of the conditions and diseases resulting from smoking:
Did you know?
Tobacco use is the one risk factor shared by 4 of the main categories of non-communicable disease. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes.
Smoking causes most lung cancers and can cause cancer anywhere on the body. This includes the lips, tongue, mouth, nose, esophagus, throat, voice box, stomach, liver, kidney, pancreas, bladder, blood, cervix, vulva, penis, and anus.
- Breathing problems and chronic respiratory conditions
Smoking is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious, progressive and disabling condition that limits airflow in the lungs. Active smoking also worsens asthma in active smokers and is associated with an increased risk for asthma in adolescents and adults.
- Heart disease, stroke, and blood circulation problems
Smoking is major cause of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke. Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, which block blood flow to the heart, brain, or legs. Some smokers end up having their limbs amputated due to blood circulation problems caused by smoking.
Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, with the risk of developing diabetes 30 to 40% higher for active smokers than non-smokers. Smoking may also worsen some of the health conditions related to type 1 diabetes, such as kidney disease.
Smoking weakens your immune system so you’re more likely to get bacterial and viral infections.
- Dental problems
Smoking increase the risk of gum diseases, tooth loss and tooth sensitivity. Once a person has gum damage, smoking also makes it harder for their gums to heal.
- Hearing loss
Smoking reduces blood flow to the inner ear. Smokers may also lose their hearing earlier than a non-smoker.
- Vision loss
Smoking damages the eye and can lead to macular degeneration — the main cause of blindness in Australia.
- Fertility problems
Smoking can make it more difficult to fall pregnant and affect sperm quality. Find out more about smoking and tobacco and pregnancy.
- Osteoporosis and menopause
Smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis and in women, may result in early menopause compared to a non-smoker.
What the numbers say?
About 110,000 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases each year. About 21.8% of male’s deaths and 9.7% of female deaths are caused by tobacco smoke (18.6% overall). More than 23% of male deaths and 12% of female deaths are caused by tobacco (16.6% overall)
Effects on those around you
As a smoker, you can affect the health of other people when they breathe in your second-hand smoke. This means they’re breathing in the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that you are. Find out about the health risks of passive smoking.
Smoking is expensive. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you could be spending more than P 58,400 a year on cigarettes.
Reducing the effects:
There is no safe level of smoking. To reduce your risk, the best option is to quit smoking. You’ll feel the health benefits almost straight away.
About the writer:
Bubot V. Sueta. Environment Safety and Health Specialist, father of three beautiful children, a loving and faithful husband…. Graduated from Centro Escolar University with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication Major in Broadcast. A Safety Officer for 10 years. Safety at work and home are his priorities. Ensures that the Project Site is free from hazards, all workers at the site are knowledgeable on their activity, and have a core value of safety awareness. The goal is to deliver the project on time with quality and most importantly with ZERO Loss Time Incident.