“I do not smoke…” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (May 27-June 2, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of May 27-June 2, 2015

I do not smoke…

Precisely because once upon a time, I did.

That’s how I started my first prize-winning essay for the Blue Collar Magazine in the early 1990s. In that essay, I did a bit of everything: related some personal experiences, spouted some statistics on how smoking adversely affects health, and added touches of humor. If you’d have read that essay, you would have thought: Here’s someone who quit smoking and lived to tell the tale. Good for her!

The truth of the matter is that from the time I started smoking at age 16 until I quit for good on New Year’s Day 2015, I have not quit only once. So you can say that my winning piece for that contest was good only for that year. The subsequent years had brought their own stressors and with these, the urge to smoke. I have attempted to quit smoking – and then relapsed- more than a handful of times. So why are we talking about this “yosi kadiri” (disgusting cigarette) topic?

Visiting our go-to website du jour for all things holiday, http://www.holidayinsights.com, I found out that May 31 is actually “World No Tobacco Day.” It’s pretty obvious about what this holiday is about, right? In the home country, there used to be a “Just say No to drugs” campaign and I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a similar push against smoking, like a “Just say No to tobacco” kind of thing. Oh, of course I remember when the late Senator Juan Flavier, M.D. was still the Secretary of the Department of Health and one of the flagship campaigns of his administration was the “Yosi Kadiri” media promo. Not that my younger self would have been affected by any kind of anti-smoking propaganda, thinking myself above the fray and invincible, silently hoping that others would honor my “right” to smoke.

In 1988, the World Health Organization passed Resolution WHA42.19, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day every year on May 31, and therefore World No Tobacco Day is always celebrated on that date. World No Tobacco Day is supported by medical organizations around the world. Many groups and organizations use this day to encourage individuals to quit smoking. They promote education of the issues and dangers of using all forms of tobacco, smoked or chewed, for example. Globally, this awareness campaign emphasizes the many health complications due to smoking, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, and blindness, to name a few. Let’s also not gloss over the fact that the nicotine in cigarettes is as addictive as the active ingredient in the more dangerous drugs we know like heroin or cocaine – and that is why it’s so hard to kick the habit. Yes, there is such a thing as a nicotine addiction.

There are many faces of tobacco use. My own grandfather, Lolo Johnny, developed emphysema toward the end of his life because of smoking. Emphysema is a disease that renders air sacs in the lung inelastic, preventing them from expanding and contracting like they usually do. This makes it difficult if not impossible to breathe – http://betobaccofree.hhs.gov/. He passed away from the complications of this punishing illness. Mang Nilo is a heavy smoker and you know what? His wife Aling Marta died due to the secondhand smoke. He’s still up and about, but I don’t know that he may be harboring regrets about losing his partner due to his smoking habit. On the other hand, Lolay, the grandma of my grand-aunt Lola Ester, used to smoke aromatic cigars with the lighted end inside the mouth, and she never developed oral cancer or anything else! She lived a full life until her mid-90s. However, don’t be fooled by this last example. Cigarettes definitely cause more harm than good. You do know that the former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop reported in 1988 on the addictiveness of nicotine, smoking-related illnesses, and the health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke. During his tenure, smoking rates declined significantly and he was envisioning a smoke-free USA by year 2000. Dr. Koop passed away in 2013 but he did make inroads on how we as a nation view the ill effects of tobacco. So let’s say no to tobacco on World No Tobacco Day.

Here’s an example of a Quit Plan. Please note that the copyright of this form belongs to The Permanente Medical Group Inc., and it was developed by TPMG’s Regional Health Education (RHE).This was the form I used when I planned to quit smoking on April 22, 2014. Like I told you earlier, I eventually relapsed after a couple of months. I tried to quit again on January 1, 2015, and this time it stuck. I’ve been completely tobacco-free for five months now!
QUIT PLAN: I am ready to quit smoking
1. My quit date is _____/ _____/ _____
2. Motivations: “I am quitting because…” (give at least 3 reasons)
3. Preparation activities: “I will prepare to quit by…” (check all that apply)
o Getting rid of all smoking items
o Practicing not smoking during certain hours of the day and night
o Cutting back on the number of cigarettes I smoke to _____ per _____
o Not allowing smoking in my home
o Learning or practicing more methods of relaxation
4. Support and Resources: “I will ask support from…”
5. Triggers and Coping Strategies: “ I will cope with urges to smoke by…” (answer in terms of each trigger and what you’ll do instead of smoking)
6. Reward: “I will reward myself for quitting by…”
(Signature and date)

Otherwise, here’s what else we’re celebrating: Emergency Medical Services Week during the fourth week of May. This could be where we’d end up if we don’t give up our smoking habit. While we’re glad that there are fully-staffed emergency rooms to which we can go in times of severe distress of any type (“If you think you have a medical or psychiatric emergency, dial 911 or go to the nearest hospital…”), I believe that we should also spend equal time thinking about and implementing preventive health measures so that we don’t end up in the ER quite often. Benjamin Franklin was the one who reportedly said the eternal adage: an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So sue me for not being original but there’s really something to be said for preventing disease from happening in the first place. #

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

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