MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Presidential frontrunner Benigno "Aquino" III said Monday he is not yet ready to kick his nicotine habit, saying that this may affect his decision-making skills.
Since being the Philippines' most powerful person entails a lot of responsibilities, Aquino said he needs all the de-stress mechanisms he can get, and this includes smoking.
He believes people will understand his situation, especially since they know that he's been smoking since the start of his campaign.
"Hindi pa handa si Noynoy Aquino na mag-quit ng paninigarilyo. Aniya, maraming pressure daw sa trabaho at baka raw makaapekto sa decision-making niya kapag pinutol niya ang paninigarilyo," ABS-CBN News' Willard Cheng reported.
A former health secretary and a lawmaker earlier admitted that it would be hard for Aquino to quit smoking by going cold turkey, but stressed that there are many other ways for him to overcome this habit and help in the government's anti-smoking campaign.
Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, a former health secretary and Aquino's health policy adviser, said Aquino can try a number of smoking cessation methods such as acupuncture, transdermal patches or gum to help him kick his nicotine habit one step at a time.
|Aquino, a known smoker, is asked to kick his nicotine habit. Credit: ABS-CBN
"We really want him to quit smoking within his first 100 days in office," Galvez-Tan said in Filipino, in an interview at ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda" on Monday.
Galvez-Tan said it's normal for Aquino to have a hard time in quitting smoking since most smokers believe that the habit can relieve stress and provide pleasurable sensations, making it addictive.
He stressed that the so-called benefits of smoking, however, do not justify the risks. For one, there's the danger of getting lung cancer and heart disease, which may lead to death.
"There are at least 240 deaths a day because of smoking," he said.
Galvez-Tan commended the presidential frontrunner for being "open and willing" to quit smoking, citing his "very strong commitment" to the anti-tobacco bill.
Follow Obama's tack
For her part, sports buff Sen. Pia Cayetano said Aquino need not resort to an abrupt cessation of nicotine use.
He could, however, push for a stricter enforcement of anti-smoking laws in the country while slowly trying to overcome his smoking habit.
"Aquino can still make a difference by pushing for anti-smoking laws despite his being a smoker, just like US President Barack Obama," said Cayetano, who authored a bill requiring graphic health warning signs on cigarette labels.
Smoking is one habit that Aquino shares with Obama, whose successful campaign for the US presidency is considered a momentous political phenomenon. Like Aquino, the US President is struggling to get rid of his smoking habit since 2006.
Last week, a tobacco control group asked Aquino to be a poster boy for the government's anti-smoking campaign. This came after the said group offered to help the presidential frontrunner to quit smoking through therapy.
"We deserve a healthy leader who will be able to fulfill his promise of righteous governance," said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines. -- With a report from Monica Ladisla, abs-cbnNEWS.com intern