On quitting smoking

By Herbert Vego

THE Department of Health (DOH) has asked the smokers anew to stop the vice that could weaken the lungs and make them more susceptible to respiratory disease, including Covid-19.

To quote DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, “More people will be spared from smoking-related diseases and government’s spending for these diseases will be lessened, ultimately giving us more room to focus on our health promotion efforts.”

The government has steadfastly raised excise taxes on cigarettes to deter smoking. In the previous year 2020, it collected an excise tax of P45 per cigarette pack. Watch out for an additional P5 per pack this year and another P5 per year until it reaches P60 in 2023.

Taxation to the max, however, is not convincing because previous tax hikes imposed on cigarettes failed to stop the smoking habit.

People who are really mindful of their health don’t have to be threatened with higher cost of cigarettes. One of them is Toni “June” Tamayo, the Ilonggo regional director of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Region 5 (Bicol).

I used to work with him when he was of lower rank at TESDA-Western Visayas. He would often go out of the office to smoke.

The last time he came home, we met over lunch, where he enthused that he had stopped smoking.

“How did you do it?” I asked Toni.

“One day,” he answered briefly, “I simply challenged myself to smoke my last stick and really did it.”

By that example, Toni was saying that a really determined quitter would do it in exchange for better health.

I wish my late father had been so determined. He had many times attempted to quit but always resumed. The only time he stopped was when he had caught lung cancer. He passed away as a result.

If you are one of those trying to cut back on your number of sticks because you can’t quit outright, the bad news is that halving the number of cigarettes you smoke daily hardly makes a difference in your risk of dying, according to a study made by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, Norway.

“A reduction in cigarette consumption by more than 50 percent,” wrote study author Aage Tveral, “is not associated with a markedly lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or smoking-related cancer.”

The study included over 51,000 men and women between the ages of 20 and 34, who were monitored twice over a period of 20 years.

The participants were grouped according to their smoking history. There were those who never smoked and ex-smokers. But among those who began the study as smokers, there were quitters (stopped smoking over the course of the study), moderate smokers (1-14 cigarettes daily), reducers (started the study while smoking 15 or more cigarettes but cut that number by half) and heavy smokers (15 or more cigarettes a day).

Over the course of the study, the researchers found that there was no difference in the number of smoking-related deaths between the heavy smokers and the reducers. For women, in fact, the death rate from cancer rose in the group that reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked.

Therefore, the only safe way out of the risk caused by smoking is to quit.



TRUE public servants don’t have to be in politics to serve the people.

With that in mind, a few good men in Miag-ao, Iloilo have organized themselves into a cohesive organization, Miag-ao Patriots, aimed at providing honest public service beyond politics.

In fact, they did it in the aftermath of typhoon Fabian when they pooled their resources to buy and distribute rice and other foodstuffs to the less fortunate, especially those whose houses were ravaged by the storm surge.

I understand that, while the organizers consider themselves “coequals,” they look up to a retired banker, Leopoldo “Doods” Moragas, as their leader. Following his early retirement in 2012 as senior assistant vice-president at the Philippine National Bank (PNB), he has devoted himself to corporate consultancy.

They are said to be apprehensive over the possibility that with the “graduation” of Mayor Mac Napulan in election year 2022, a non-native politician from a neighboring town might run to take over. When that happens, they would support a native candidate on the battle cry Miag-ao for Miag-awanons.”

The untimely death of Vice-Mayor Leonardo Naldoza has left the ruling party without a “done” candidate for mayor. It could trigger a rivalry among other aspirants.

“Miag-ao for Miag-awanons.” sounds locally attractive.  An “imported” candidate – assuming it’s true that there’s one posing as a “transferee” – could repel the “insulted” residents.

That could be a long-shot possibility though, according to a reliable source, as long as aspiring native candidates from the ruling group stand by only one official candidate. A unifying “outsider” might come in only as a last resort to prevent a divisive scramble.

The political retirement of the Floreses has left Miag-ao without a political opposition to the well-entrenched, identifiable group.

As to whether the Miag-ao Patriots would evolve into such an opposition force, there seems to be encouraging circumstances lurking around the corner. Ating alamin in time for another column.

I am sure everybody agrees, masadya gid man kon may kalaban.



ILOILO CITY Mayor Jerry Treñas has posted on his Facebook page his appreciation for the efforts of private individuals who have contributed to the well-being of Ilonggos.

One of them is the billionaire chairman of MORE Power, billionaire Enrique Razon Jr., whose 5,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived yesterday. It was just in time to replenish the ebbing number of doses in stock in various vaccination centers.

Razon and MORE Power President Roel Castro have also done their part in suspending disconnections of power lines of customers with delayed payments in view of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) f the city.

The pandemic has affected the plan of MORE Power to go full-speed ahead in its modernization program.

Mr. Razon, 61, is the donor of the mega-vaccination building with sub-zero temperature in Pasay City. It is capable of comfortably accommodating 10,000 vaccinees per day.