GROUPS advocating for pro-health and pro-children policies have encouraged schools to safeguard learners from the lethal effects of tobacco products.
In consecutive fora conducted in Manila City, Pasig City, and Pateros, Social Watch Phils. (SWP) and “Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan (AKTIB)” Phils. appealed to learning institutions to take serious action versus tobacco products, boost smoke-free and vape-free laws, as well as support evidence-based pro-health proposals.
Per the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) in the Philippines, of pupils aged 13 to 15 years old, 10 percent smoke cigarettes, while 14.1 percent use the electronic kind. Despite the smoking ban inside and outside school premises, the study revealed that 62.7 percent had seen someone smoking inside or outside school buildings.
“The brain keeps developing until about age 25. Exposure to nicotine—a chemical found in tobacco products—in the formative years can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control; hence, [the] academe should regard tobacco control as one of its health priorities, and fully appreciate the positive impact of smoke-free and vape-free endeavors on our learners’ overall well-being,” said SWP joint convenor Dr. Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza. “Schools are potentially conducive for tobacco prevention and control because teachers and other personnel can significantly influence children’s habits and behaviors during the developing years.”
In addition to strictly implementing existing policies, Dr. Raquiza emphasized that teachers and other personnel can serve as good role models, and should be provided with proper training to deliver tobacco-related programs.
The SWP also appealed for parental involvement to maximize healthy practices, understand the off-school factors behind the child’s nicotine dependence, and provide appropriate intervention.
The group asked learning institutions to report tobacco industry interferences—including sponsorships, scholarships, and other engagements. Citing the 2019 GYTS, the organizations pointed out that a total of 11 percent of the surveyed students were even offered a free tobacco product from a tobacco-company representative, and 8.4 percent had something with a tobacco-brand logo on it, such as a T-shirt, pen, backpack, lighter, hat, and shades.
Dr. Raquiza explained that tobacco companies claim to follow applicable laws to deter youth access; “however, their marketing methods operate differently. They entice children into vaping by offering fun flavors like chocolate, bubblegum, and cotton candy.” Moreover, she said, they characterize smokers and vapers as “cool, sexy, and independent—portrayals that appeal to teens.”
“The companies also use deceptive harm-reduction claims, such as vaping being a better alternative to smoking. These marketing ploys prompt cigarette smokers to shift to vape and attract a new generation of nicotine-dependent consumers. Afterward, they redirect the blame to our children by justifying smoking and vaping as ‘free and informed lifestyle choices.’ [Both] contradict free choice since these acts, for those who are hooked, are addictions rather than voluntary decisions,” the co-convener furthered. “We appeal to the academe to break this cycle, and save young lives.”