Saturday, October 06, 2007

UP Going Cold Turkey

October 06, 2007

Cold Turkey- A smoking cessation strategy that involves abrupt cessation of smoking. Used alone, only 5% to 7% of smokers will remain abstinent long-term.
The shock of my life came when I saw the notices posted at Vinzons Hall banning smoking in UP. A no smoking policy inside the building is reasonable enough but every other place I can think of where one can smoke such as parking lots, tambayans, gardens are still off limits to smokers. What the hell? Is this still UP?

Drawing from a constitutional mandate to protect and promote people’s right to health and from the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, the University of the Philippines has instituted a System-wide ban on smoking and sales and advertising of tobacco.
Sec. 5. Smoking in Public Places. - Smoking shall be absolutely prohibited in the following public places:
a. Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools,elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels, and recreational facilities for persons under eighteen (18) years old;
I understand that UP is trying to promote good health in its community and follow the law. It is laudable that they are protecting the rights of the non-smokers but at what expense for smokers? Indeed, It is a choice to smoke a cigarette but it is also a choice to STOP smoking.

According to the American Pediatrics Society, it takes only a short time to become addicted to nicotine. If you a re a smoker, you will know you are addicted when you find yourself craving cigarettes and feeling nervous without them. You will really know you are addicted when you try to quit smoking and can't.

Quitting can be hard for addicted smokers, and it can take a long time. Often people must try several times before they succeed. The longer you smoke, the harder it is to stop.
In fact it is harder to stop than to start smoking especially for those who have been smoking for years. Studies have shown that going "Cold Turkey" (abrupt cessation) is doomed to fail. Only about 5-7% remain cigarette-free in the long run. To stop smoking is a process where you lessen your consumption in stages until your body can handle itself without the nicotine.

Ateneo de Manila University made a compromise by designating smoking areas probably citing Sec 6 of the same Republic Act
Sec. 6. Designated Smoking And Non-Smoking Areas. - In all enclosed places that are open to the general public, private workplaces, and other places not covered under
the preceding section, where smoking may expose a person to the other than the
smoker to tobacco smoke, the owner, proprietor, possessor, manager or administrator of such places shall establish smoking areas. Such areas may include a designated smoking area within the building, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation, but shall not be located within the same room that has been designated as a non-smoking area.

All designated smoking areas shall have at least one (1) legible and visible sign posted, namely "SMOKING AREA" for the Information and guidance of all concerned. In addition, the sign posted shall include a warning about the health effects of direct or secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke. Non-smoking areas shall likewise have at least one (1) legible and visible sign, namely: "NO SMOKING AREA" or "NO SMOKING".
Ateneo has a sprinkling of Smockets or Smokers' Pocket Garden or SPGs to give leeway for smokers. You know it is a Pocket Garden because they provide benches and ashtrays and, well, a big warning sign that smoking is dangerous to your health or it contributes to the degradation of nature. A hefty fine of P500 if you light a cigarette in areas not considered a pocket garden. Students, professors and on rare occasions Jesuit priests use these SPGs. As far as I know, pocket gardens were readied before the strict implementation of the regulation.

Comparing it to Ateneo now, UP is looking more unreasonable. The notices contains the list where you CANNOT smoke which basically covers every area, nook and cranny of UP. Where then, are smokers allowed to light a cigarette? As I see it, the UP administration is looking at a utopian image of smoke free campus with a flick of their finger. If they must regulate, why not take the (I can't believe I'm saying this) Ateneo example? Open designated areas for smoking. Along with this, the administration should hold a comprehensive program to educate the students about the ills of smoking. Launch an information drive or campaign in the campus. To implement a total smoking ban without the inculcating the purpose is either just :
A. Plain lip service-- without an intention to take this rule seriously.
B. Authoritarian rule-- where the administration uses its position and power stripping smokers of their right to choose to smoke or not to smoke.
Quitting smoking for a person entails a step by step program sometimes involving withdrawal (syndrome), nicotine patches, audio/visual guides etc. A similar process must occur if the UP admin is serious in implementing the smoking ban. This regulation will only face failure if the UP administration pursues this regulation without proper campaign and consultation with the students and the rest of the UP community.

Oh I can see it now, cranky professors and restless students in a class craving for a stick! *shudder*

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