September 28, 2023

There is good news as well as bad news on the incidence of smoking among the youth in Baguio City.

Based on the results of the Baguio City Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the City Health Services Office for 2023, use of tobacco or smoking among high school students has decreased, but the data on those who have tried or are using e-cigarettes or vape has alarmingly increased.

In a press briefing on Sept. 6, Dr. Nelson Hora, CHSO medical officer IV, reported the survey targeted 1,400 grades 7 to 10 students from 16 public schools in the city with the highest student population who were also the respondents in the 2014, 2016, and 2019 surveys to compare tobacco use prevalence among the youth in the city.

According to the survey, the number of young smokers in the city dropped to 10.62 percent in 2023 compared to 43 percent in 2014, 31 percent in 2016, and 21 percent in 2019.

Hora attributed this to the anti-smoking campaign of the city.

The number of those who are actually smoking is also down from 28 percent in 2014 to five percent in 2023.

Those who are frequently smoking or are daily smokers are also fewer, from 1.40 percent in 2014 to 0.63 percent in 2023; and ever used any form of tobacco from 10 to 4.11 percent.

The number of those who have never used but are susceptible to tobacco, or those who feel they will be smoking in the next year is also down from 10.55 to 5.57 percent, while those contemplating on smoking in the next five years is seven percent.

However despite the decline, Hora said they still consider as high the number of smokers among the youth, especially since there are still those who are contemplating or feel like trying smoking in the future.

He said an alarming result of the survey is the number of youth who might not have been smoking cigarettes but have tried and are actually using e-cigarettes, particularly vape.

Most of the respondents surveyed know that vape exists and 39 percent of them are aware that there is an existing ordinance prohibiting the use, sale, and distribution of cigarettes and vape in the city.

Results showed eight percent owns an e-cigarette. Among the total number of respondents, 22 percent have ever tried using vape.

Twelve percent are current vape users, which Hora said is rather high and alarming. Compared to the last Adult Tobacco survey the CHSO conducted in December 2022, only five percent of adults use vape. This, he said, means more youth are into vaping than adults.

The young respondents who use vape said it was either given to them by friends, bought it online, which Hora said is a problem because online selling and buying is not regulated; some bought in stores, and others admitted the vape they own was stolen.

In terms of second-hand smoke exposure at home, the number decreased from 45 percent to 25 percent but is still consi-dered high because this means two out of 10 persons are exposed to second hand smoke, Hora said.

In terms of access to cigarettes, the number of those who bought them from stores decreased from 63 to 44 percent.

Another alarming result is 60 percent of them were not prevented from buying cigarettes from stores compared to 28 percent in 2014.

The number of those who were given free tobacco products by a tobacco company is down from seven to three percent; there are fewer respondents who owned something with a tobacco brand logo, from 11 to seven percent; and those who heard anti-tobacco messages from the media is 59 percent.

Hora also reported in 2014, 76 percent of the surveyed youth said they were taught about the dangers of smoking in schools, but the number went down to 51 percent in 2023.

While the number of those who know that tobacco and smoking are harmful to health, the pre-sence of those who contemplate on smo-king in the future is something to be concerned about.

The survey also showed most are in favor of banning inside enclosed public places, but awareness on the smoking ordinance has decreased from 70 to 42 percent.

“We have a decreasing trend of cigarette use but an alarming increase in other forms like vape. So this is a challenge for us now, especially for schools and parents on how we encourage our youth not to start using tobacco or at least continue the campaign against smoking in the city,” Hora said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana