At Large

Dying for a smoke

FOOTAGE OF the shooting of a security guard, who had been admonishing a man for smoking in a public place, must have sent a chill down the spine of antismoking advocates.

The video shows the guard following the man around, especially when he takes out a cigarette, lights it, and brazenly puffs away. The “sekyu” starts out discreetly, but when the man continues to ignore him, says a few words to him. At this point, the man suddenly pulls a pistol from his waistband and, yanking it from its holster, aims at the guard who scampers away. But the man follows him, shooting pointblank. In the ensuing panic and confusion, as customers flee the premises, the shooter joins them, even taking time to bend and pick up the fallen holster.


The killer’s face can be seen clearly enough in the video so there’s really no reason for law enforcers to botch their duty to get him. But since the gunman acted so arrogantly and brazenly, the suspicion is that he must wield some kind of influence in the locality or with authorities.

I haven’t gotten any word yet on how this woeful incident has been solved—if it has been solved—but one can’t help but ruminate on the deadlier consequences of smoking. If smoking doesn’t kill you in the long run, it’ll end your life in a few minutes, at the hands of a hot-tempered, arrogant smoker.


We now know enough about second-hand smoke to realize that smoking can kill you even if you yourself haven’t yet lighted up. Scientific studies show that breathing the smoke exhaled by a smoker is even deadlier than the one the smoker inhales. This is because the exhaled smoke blends with all the other pollutants floating in the air and carries deadlier toxins.

So even if the smoker hadn’t gunned down the hapless guard, he was surely, though slowly, killing all those people quietly enjoying themselves as he wandered around the small mall.

* * *

I GREW up in a family of smokers, although after my father had a stroke he was forced to give up the habit, and all my four brothers were eventually convinced to stop by various health problems.

But I married a nonsmoker who effectively nipped in the bud my attempts to seem more “sophisticated” by threatening that if I continued to smoke he would stop kissing me! Not just once would he quote the saying: “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.”

As a consequence, we didn’t have ashtrays in our home. My brothers would often complain, when they still indulged in the bad habit, that they had no place to drop their cigarette ashes or stub out their sticks when we held parties in our home. I would scramble to find replacements: bottle caps, opened cans, old saucers. Until the hubby simply decreed that our home was a “no-smoking zone.”

Maybe that’s the reason neither of our children took up the habit. I read somewhere that if a person hasn’t begun smoking by age 18, chances are he or she would never become a smoker. Our children have many things to thank their parents for, but not picking up smoking is something they definitely must credit to their father.


* * *

IN this, my family is definitely an exception. A recent survey found that “most” Filipinos smoke, a remarkable statistic given the level of poverty in the country, and the rising cost of cigarettes. This may also explain the rising numbers of deaths and diseases related to smoking: cardiovascular complications, lung diseases, even cancers, since smoking has been linked to lowered levels of immunity.

It is thus puzzling why the Court of Appeals ruled recently against the Metro Manila Development Authority on the issue of banning smoking in public places.

The CA upheld a local court’s decision finding against the MMDA when it sought authority to enforce provisions of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2013. The MMDA, it was said, did not have the authority to enforce the ban because it was not a member of the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco, which has the sole authority to enforce the law.

But what if the MMDA is deputized by the IACT, or by local governments, to act as their enforcers? Would that give it leeway to enforce the law?

It seems foolish, after all, to enact a law against smoking without creating or deputizing a body to enforce it. Asking local governments to enforce the law in Metro Manila makes little sense, since a smoker could very well light up in Quezon City and smoke as he makes his way through Mandaluyong to Makati. (Although, given the traffic times nowadays, he could finish a pack of cigarettes by the time he reaches his destination.)

Can’t the court give priority to health concerns and the overall health of the population over territorial technicalities?

* * *

ONE bright spot in this scenario is the conversion of the added revenue from the “Sin Tax” Law, garnered mainly from higher taxes on cigarette manufacturers, into funds for mitigating the effects of diseases resulting from smoking or other “lifestyle” problems.

A large portion of “sin tax” money, to my mind, should also go to health promotional activities to bring down the number of smokers among Filipinos. The special target of promotional activities should be preteens and teens, who are most vulnerable to peer pressure and the mystique of smoking created by the media.

Not coincidentally, young people have become the focus of much cigarette marketing efforts, from rock concerts to cigarette kiosks in malls. With so many older Filipinos already “hooked,” it makes sense for marketers to go after new customers, and that includes working on mindsets and attitudes from childhood that give cigarettes and smoking the mystique of adult freedom and sophistication.

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TAGS: antismoking advocate, banning smoking, Cigarette, opinion, public smoking, sin tax law, smoking
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