THE Department of Health (DoH) has offered a lifeline to smokers who find it hard to kick the habit.
The department on Tuesday launched the P27 million national “quit line” at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City. Through this program, smokers can get real-time counselling and support anywhere with the use of phone and mobile-centered services.
“Why attain something that is attainable, [when]we [can]aim [for]higher,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial during the launch.
Smokers wanting to avail themselves of these services can call the hotline 165-364 to have a one-on-one talk with a support representative.
To access the mobile service, text ‘STOPSMOKE’ to (29290)165364, which a support representative will receive directly instead of a voice operator. The service is available to SMART, Sun Cellular and Globe subscribers.
Ubial said the DOH anti-smoking programs have reduced tobacco use from 29.7 percent in 2009, to 23.8 percent in 2015.
“So a reduction of over six percentage points, that means about one million Filipino adults have stopped smoking in this period,” she said.
She also ordered all DoH personnel to work harder to help stop the spread of the vice in the Philippines. The department aims to cut smoking prevalence in the country by “no less than 15 percent by 2022.”
Anti-smoking advocates and partners from the World Health Organization (WHO), Framework Convention on
Tobacco Control, New Vois Association and Health Justice Philippines, also attended the launch.
Meanwhile, two pro-vaping groups scored the DoH chief for saying that e-cigarettes or vapes contain the same chemicals present in cigarettes.
“It is both alarming and disappointing to hear an experienced physician and the highest health official of the land issues statements that directly contradict scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes are overwhelmingly less harmful than conventional cigarettes and can help smokers quit,” Tom Pinlac, President of The Vapers Philippines, said.
Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association agreed.
“Instead of adding to the fear mongering, inaccurate information and propaganda on e-cigarettes, [Ubial] should read the numerous independent studies supported by reputable organizations and published in respected scientific journals that show e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes and are viable smoking cessation aids,” Dulay said.
On June 14, Ubial told teachers and students of the Felipe G. Calderon High School in Tondo that the DoH has “released an advisory from the Food and Drug Administration that the products and components used in vape are still tobacco. So it still contains the 7,000 dangerous chemicals that are found in cigarettes.”
She argued that groups promoting e-cigarettes misled the public by marketing vapes as safe alternatives to cigarettes.
with Nelson S. Badilla