RECENTLY, five former health department chiefs decided to ask the Supreme Court to allow them to intervene in a local case between cigarette companies and the use of graphic images for anti-smoking campaign.

Not a breath of fresh air as one may put it. The former health secretaries should have intervened last year when the issue was very hot back in summer.

Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and Fortune Tobacco Corp. filed separate cases in response to the Department of Health’s (DOH) campaign to put disturbing images of the ill effects of smoking on cigarette packs.

The case remained in limbo during the past year and recently, it has been given attention by government officials. I believe that for this case to succeed in Court, more attention should be given by anti-smoking advocates and ultimately, the government itself.

Along with Cabral, former DOH chiefs Francisco Duque III, Jaime Galvez-Tan, Alberto Romualdez Jr., and Alfredo R.A. Bengzon filed a petition and a motion asking the high court to allow them intervention with the cases.

The disturbing images, along with the ominuos messages, should be enough to shun smokers from smoking. The images, used by countries like the United Kingdom and Singapore, have helped reduce smoking among its citizens. The rate of smoking from 26 percent in 2000 has been reduced to 16 percent in 2009.

Likewise, the government should give priority to the fact that more and more are killed by lung cancer every year, 80 percent who were diagnosed with it succumbed to the disease and only survive 15 percent.

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According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey back in 2009, 28 percent of Filipinos are smokers. Along with that, only five percent of the smokers have successfully quit smoking.

The case filed by the tobacco companies might be affirmed by the fact that the President is also smoker, a “heavy smoker” to be precise.

Although the case got attention recently, it still is good to know that some people give a hoot that more Filipinos should quit smoking. If one is really blind, one may notice that many Filipino teenagers are picking up the habit nowadays.

In relation to that, I recently watched the movie, Thank You For Smoking, and picked up a few ideas why smoking cannot be fully stopped. The movie focused on the role of the media, particularly PR men, who subtly persuade America’s youth into smoking. The movie pointed out one thing to me, as also shown in the movie.

Also, the Filipino entertainment industry’s role has been to convince more people to smoke, because of the fact that many television shows feature young people smoking. The shows appear as though smoking is not bad and portrayed as cool.

At the end of the day, always follow what health advocates have been saying for a long time that smoking is not cool.

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