By Perla Lena

ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGN.  The Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force (ICAST) is intensifying its campaign against smoking, particularly on e-cigarettes, its executive director Iñigo Garingalao said Friday (June 28, 2024). The task force recorded 3,507 violations of the city’s anti-smoking ordinance from January to June, with students comprising 17.11 percent of the offenders. (PNA file photo by Joan Bondoc)

ILOILO CITY – The Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force (ICAST) has expressed concern over the alarming use of cigarettes, including vape, among students, urging school administrators to expedite policy revisions before the opening of classes.

ICAST Executive Director Iñigo Garingalao said Friday that proper regulation is necessary because it is a public health concern.

He cited the need for a policy to deal with the concern, including awareness campaigns and apprehending minors.

From January to June this year, ICAST recorded 3,507 violations of the anti-smoking ordinance, including 600 students and 10 minors. The report added that 751 of those apprehended were using e-cigarettes.

In 2023, the task force apprehended 10,725 violators, including 1,513 who were using vapes. Of the total apprehension, 191 were students and 16 were minors.

Students are highly susceptible to the misleading advertising of the e-cigarette industry, which often promotes vaping as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes.

“Last year, many institutions were caught off guard because their policies did not explicitly prohibit vaping. As a result, apprehended students could argue that they weren’t breaking any rules,” he said.

Garingalao noted a surge in vaping after the health pandemic, particularly among youths.

“Vaping is another form of taking in the addictive nicotine, which is also present in cigarettes. When left unattended, and the age of smokers gets lower and their numbers increasing, Iloilo will be assured of a generation that is addicted to nicotine,” he said.

Garingalao added that anti-smoking initiatives are among the most challenging to implement due to their wide-ranging impact on society, including economic, sociographic, and psychological factors, hence requiring a multi-sectoral approach.

Together with the City Health Office and the ongoing campaigns of the Department of Health, they are proactively working to educate the community by providing lectures and sharing best practices.

The task force believes that early intervention is necessary because heavy smoking starts with harmless experimentation. (With a report from Grace D. Salumag, OJT/PNA)