Smoking ban on Pinoy Doctors: What was the PMA smoking?
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.
The Philippine Medical Association has passed a law that bans Filipino Doctors from Smoking, the reason they gave was so doctors would serve as good role models for their patients. Another reason was that Patients now need not fear of being affected by Doctors second hand smoke (which has a greater risk for lung cancer).
The reason behind it is well intentioned but it is absurd to believe that every doctor will comply with this. People would not quit cold turkey just because the PMA said so. I don’t smoke personally but I just think that this is ridiculous on so many levels.
One, you are talking about a particular group of people who have endured stresses far beyond that of a normal human being, for people who have parents who are also doctors, the stress to achieve is insanely high, the demand to excel and be accepted to a prestigious Medical school and then work as a Resident under the tutelage of some of the harshest teachers. Doctors have it rough, no one will see it, and no one will understand it unless they are Doctors themselves. Smoking is part of that culture, it is part of coping up with stress, and Even the President admits that he needs it to relax. People think that Doctors have time to cope with other things like watching a movie or going to a gym, those things are great but most would rather sleep after a grueling 36 hour duty cycle and the easiest way to cool off hot heads and bruised egos is to burn a few sticks behind the OPD at night, or in the parking lot where not a lot of people could see. Smoking Doctors are hypocrites in a sense since everyone who has picked up a Medical book knows that smoking is dangerous for one’s health but when you are low on funds and there are few recreational things you can do on such a time consuming profession smoking is always accessible and always willing to give you a little stress busting outlet. You cannot change an entire complex culture overnight, which makes me want to ask, what the hell has the PMA been smoking?
Two, the likelihood of a Physician smoking and actually affecting a patient with second hand smoke is almost next to nil. You would have to be exposed to a physicians smoking habits for a long time to be affected at all, so unless you are lovers or drinking buddies with your doctor your chances are very slim. Doctors are very conscious of how patients perceive them, and I don’t think a physician in his right mind would ever smoke in front of his/her patients while diagnosing their illnesses? Most Consultants if not all are very discrete about these kind of habits; you would have to spend a long time with them before even knowing they have it. They have secret places to do it in too; the reason is that image means money to doctors as well. It’s sad that the public was even encouraged to rat our smoking doctors, imagine the insane amount of texts that would pour in, the man hours needed to examine and process everything, not to underestimate or demean the PMA but I don’t think they have the man power to do this kind of thing and it would be a very questionable act to allocate funding for this particular issue when medicines are needed in far flung places and physicians are moving to different countries for greener pastures. And when asked what they would do to offending Physicians? We will cross that bridge when we get there, the spokesperson said. An ominous threat? That’s all you have to say an ominous threat? These aren’t Clerks or First year residents anymore; saying things like that would work on the young, try saying these things to the established consultants, the ones who have the pulling power. I don’t even think everyone in the PMA agrees with this ruling. This isn’t high school and the right to pollute one’s self with toxic substances is ones responsibility. The Physician is ultimately responsible for himself. He gets cancer, he had it coming, but no organization has the right to dictate one’s life choices, we even say that to our patients who don’t want blood transfusions. Self Determination, something that people often but seldom understand.
I do not smoke. I quit more than 2 decades ago because it was bad for me. I am not an advocate for smokers. I have friends who smoke who will never stop smoking , one will say my grandfather died at the age of 110 and he was still smoking till his last day , and another will say , Damn them , I won’t let them take away something that I enjoy. I write this because there is a sense of madness and impulsiveness in this ruling. As if somebody thought about it one day and said come on, let’s just do it and see what happens.
I am writing this because I am a Writer first and a Doctor second. And as both I say, there is no way this will stick, you can bet a whole carton of cigarettes that it won’t.