Sunday, June 25, 2006


Seems like every other Filipino adult smokes. We don't have any of the anti-smoking messages regularly broadcast in the US and advertisements for tobacco products are ubiquitous. Anybody can buy cigarettes here which are often sold by the stick in the traffic congested streets.

The government will not curb this national addiction because of the tax revenues that tobacco brings. The media will keep off this subject because of the huge advertising revenues. Smoking prematurely disables productive workers and smoking causes a lot of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases that our country (which still suffers from endemic intestinal parasitism) can ill afford.

The Filipino worker overseas is the real present-day hero. Why did I suddenly spring this seeming non-sequitur? Because most of the billionaires (in US dollars) in the Philippines today are engaged in the sale of tobacco, alcohol and serve as middlemen in retail trade. These billionaires hardly produce anything at all. They compete for the $25 a month remittance from abroad from nurses who work brutally long hours, maids who get regularly abused and laborers in Muslim nations who are not free to practice religions other than Islam.

Poverty is terrible and I would hate to deprive people who already have so little but we must think of long-term consequences. A lot of smokers in the provinces smoke in order to ward-off mosquitoes. The government should instead assist the people in cleaning up their immediate environs. There remains a lot of land that is unused in the Philippines and there needs to be a master plan in the creation of new self-sustaining communities that will attract people in the congested cities to relocate.

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