July 18, 2024

With the youth being a most vulnerable and at risk when it comes to health, an advocacy group continues to help in raising awareness on the many dangers of smoking tobacco and vaping.

In line with the observance of June as National No Smoking Month, Maria Cecilia Agpawa, program manager of Transcending Institution and Communities, Inc., said they focus on educating the youth on the detrimental health effects of smoking and giving particular concern on vaping, since the latter is being promoted as a better alternative to tobacco.

Agpawa belies this perception.

“We are focusing on the youth especially on vaping because they are very vulnerable. They have many risk factors, which are the same for tobacco and alcohol use, and since most of them tend to have long periods of physical inactivity and unhealthy diet,” she said during a media conference on June 13.

As theirs is an age of opportunity, Agpawa said the youth have the right to be protected from being the target as new customers of the tobacco industry, which she said is also the manufacturer of vape products.

“Since the youth may have already been informed that smoking is not cool, they are being hooked into vaping, which is (touted as) cool that is why to many of them, it is acceptable. It is not. Vaping is not cool, it is unhealthy and it should be inculcated on them that vaping has a lot of negative effects on their health similar to tobacco smoking,” Agpawa said.

She said what is more concerning is that before, some youth smoked or tried smoking in secret, but not with vaping.

“In schools, we have observed cases where students would just bow (in their seat) and vape while the teacher is doing a lecture. So you see what addiction can do – before one is afraid to smoke, but now it is no longer the case,” she said.

She said another truth is nicotine makes anxiety and depression worse, contrary to what others sayto smoke when one is under stress. “This is a lie,” she said.

Others also claim to have already quit smoking but started vaping which is believed to be less dangerous, but Agpawa said the effects of smoking and vaping are the same.

“Tobacco has nicotine that is addictive as it triggers continuous smoking, while vaping involves heating of the e-juice which also contains nicotine and other flavoring ingredients. The latter is okay if consumed as is, but when heated, it transforms into something that cause different illnesses,” she said.

The health effects of both are short and long term. For smoking, immediate exposure to smoke makes one inhale harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide among the more than 7,000 chemicals a cigarette contains. It also reduces lung function, increases heart rate and blood pressure.

For vaping, Agpawa said it also causes respiratory irritation, potential lung inflammation, increase in heart rate due to nicotine intake, and possible allergic reactions to the e-liquid components.

The long-term effects of smoking and vaping are cancers, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, weakened immune system, ulcer, decreased bone density, and other health issues.

She added the effects of smoking and vaping are also the same for those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Based on the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey among 13 to 15 years old respondents, tobacco users among youth is 12.5 percent at the national level, with Baguio having 5.29 percent and Benguet, 9.18 percent.

For vaping, there are 14.1 percent at the national level, 12.53 percent in Baguio, and 3.41 percent in Benguet.

“For us, there should not be any youth who smokes (and vapes) because it is for 18 years old and above, but data would show there are, and their number is substantial,” Agpawa said.

She added part of their extensive information dissemination is encouraging one who is not a smoker to tell the one who does it in front of them that “they love them but not the smoke.” – Hanna C. Lacsamana