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Rough Cuts | What’s this PhilCare survey up to?

Here is one news item, the caption of which if simply given a cursory look, could mislead one into believing the story is insulting to President Rodrigo Duterte and the current officials of the local government of Davao City. We mean the news report on a survey result showing that Davaoenos smoke the most in the entire country.

Isn’t this news item an affront to the local government that has pioneered in the passing and strictly implementing of an ordinance banning smoking in public and other specified places in Davao City? And yes, is it not now President Duterte who was then the city mayor, who prodded the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao to pass the anti-smoking ordinance?

Yes, a survey conducted by PhilCare, a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) promoting wellness on Filipinos, discloses that from 81 male respondents in the survey, 65 of them or 80 percent smoke an average of 10 sticks of cigarettes per day.

The same study by PhilCare also reveals that from 69 female respondents only 5 or 7 percent smoke.

It also says that on the national scale male smokers consume only an average of 4 sticks daily. For the entire Mindanao the survey adds that the total cigarettes smoked by the male respondents is 9 sticks. But in Davao City it is a whopping 10 sticks a day for the male smokers.

The survey’s lead researcher is Dr. Fernando Paragas, a Mass Communication associate professor at the University of the Philippines.

Now do not get annoyed or excited with the survey figures. Do not be misled into believing that despite the strict implementation of the Anti-Smoking Ordinance it is still ignored by the people of the city. It is not the figure representing the number of residents that smoke. It simply gives a percentage of the number of male smokers who consume an average of 10 sticks of cigarettes daily.

The 80 percent though, does not in any way, indicate that there is an increasing trend of smokers from among Davao City’s population, notwithstanding the smoking ban in public places.

But of course there is an easy way of knowing whether the prohibition on smoking in the city has effectively curtailed the number of smokers among its population. The city government which definitely should be more concerned if its programs and projects are effective, can commission a study for that purpose.

It only needs to gather a specific number of respondents that is representative of the total population or a segment thereof. The result shall then become the baseline figure for the succeeding surveys that will determine the trend.

On the other hand, there is a much faster scheme of knowing whether the smoking ban has been effective in reducing the number of smokers in the city, or perhaps controlling the smokers’ demand for cigarettes.

For certain the city has records of commercial establishments whose main line is cigarette distribution to retailers. It can pull out these records from the files and get the cigarette sales figure for a period of say 3 to 5 years. From the result it is easy to determine the trend.

Or better still the city can request from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) the sales tax payment records of Davao-based cigarette distributors and dealers. The process could probably be difficult and has to contend with some bureaucratic red tapes. But definitely it would produce the desired results.

By then the truth about the saga of the much talked about and copied ordinance on anti-smoking is let out; not the misleading figure that could destroy the smoke-free image that the city is presently enjoying courtesy of the anti-smoking ordinance in public and other manifestly identified places in the city.

Our regrets however, is that the PhilCare survey miserably failed to manifest its objective. That is why its intention could be suspect.

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