Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Albay eyes world record in smoke-free human logo during June’s ‘No Smoking Month’ bash
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 18 (PNA) – Albay’s anti-tobacco drive comes to a new height as the provincial government attempts next month to set a world record for the first-ever giant smoke-free human logo.

Expected to be formed by around 13,000 people, the human logo will deliver a message, saying “living a tobacco-free life is more healthful these days in any community such as Albay,” Gov. Joey Salceda on Saturday here said.

“While Albay has survived volcanic eruptions, massive flashfloods, lahar flows, earthquakes and super typhoons and getting more resilient against all types of natural or man-made disaster, we also want to tell the whole world that we can, at the same time, conquer the deadly habit of tobacco smoking in our communities,” Salceda stressed.

The move, according to the governor, enjoys the support of people from various local sectors such as students and youths, government and private workers, academe, faith-based and religious congregations, women, senior citizens, barangay leaders and residents, farmers and fishermen, public transport operators and practically all Albayanos.

These participants are now being mobilized by the provincial government through the Smoke-Free Albay Network (SFAN), a local non-government organization championing the anti-smoking advocacy in the province.

SFAN secretary-general Rose Olarte-Orbita said the world record-setting event will kick off early morning of June 28 at the Peñaranda Park here from where the participants will parade to the nearby Bicol University ground and assemble into the biggest smoke-free human logo ever.

The event, which will occupy a 5,033-square-meter area, is also in observance of the "No Smoking Month" and is meant to raise awareness on the ill-effects of smoking and its hazards to the environment.

Representatives from the Guinness World Record (GWR) will be around to act as adjudicator of the record attempt, Olarte-Orbita said.

The anti-tobacco campaign in the province was started by the city government here about four years ago under the administration of then city mayor Noel Rosal by way of strictly implementing a city ordinance that bans smoking in all public places that include mass conveyances, malls, restaurants, pub houses, parks, government premises, school grounds, churches and parks, among other places.

(Rosal, by the way, has been elected again as mayor of Legazpi City, after his wife, Geraldine, did not seek re-election to the top post).

As part of the campaign, the local government also displayed in conspicuous places around the city giant billboards bearing graphic images on the ill effects of tobacco to health.

“No Smoking” signs were also posted all around.

Those caught violating the ordinance are penalized with fines, ranging from P500 to P1,500 or community service for those who cannot afford the cash penalties.

For these, the city government has won the Department of Health’s Red Orchid Award in a row of three years, the latest of which was last year ,making it a Hall of Famer in the health agency’s recognition of local government units’ successful implementation of anti-smoking programs in their localities.

Inspired by the these achievements, the provincial government came out last year with its own anti-smoking ordinance which placed the entire Albay province under a ban on smoking in all public places effective November 2012.

The enforcement of the ordinance applies to all persons, whether natural or juridical, whether resident of the province or not and all places found in the three cities and 15 municipalities of Albay.

This is to protect and promote the right to health of the people of Albay and its visitors--especially non-smokers who, when exposed to second-hand smoke, can lead to heart attacks, according to Salceda.

Classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research as a carcinogen, second-hand smoke has been the cause of death of more than 600,000 people each year worldwide, of which 168,000 or 28 percent are children.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to second-hand smoke in the Western Pacific, which includes the Philippine,s is generally high.

“We are also promoting healthy lifestyle as tobacco smoking kills at least 10 Filipinos every hour and threatens one-third of the Philippine population that are at risk of dying from debilitating diseases due to tobacco use. Cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are considered as the top four tobacco-related diseases,” Salceda said.

The WHO, on the other hand, estimates that tobacco use will kill nearly six million people this year.

More than five million of them will be users and ex-users of smoked and smokeless tobacco, while more than 600,000 will be non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Albay’s smoke-free ordinance also prohibits the purchase and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors.

It also imposes restrictions on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship activities of tobacco companies.

Its penal provisions state that “any person found violating this ordinance will be fined P500 for the first offense; P1,000 for the second offense; and P3,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.”

“By coming together towards this noble cause of forming for the Guinness World Records the largest ever smoke-free human logo ever, we can show to the world that it is possible and that it is also possible for Albay to be totally a tobacco-free community,” Salceda said.

Terms and conditions governing this record attempt are now set according to the authorization given by the GWR, the governor added. (PNA) hbc/FGS/DOC/cbd