Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hueón! ¿ya dejaste de fumar?

Chile has all the indicators to make it a healthy country. Wide open spaces, good economic growth, excellent access to technology, a strong agricultural market, and good infrastructure. (indicators chosen by me). The people here should be healthy. They should be hale and hearty, live long lives and live them well.

But obesity is on the rise, and this has led to increasing numbers of patients with high blood pressure and diabetes. Research indicates that those who are apple-shaped, are more at risk. Chileans tend towards this body type, carrying most of their weight around the middle. The helpful bicho (in this case, bacteria) H. pylori has caused the incidence of preulcerous conditions and gastric ulcers to rise. The stomach is under assault! There is a national campaign on any day of the week encouraging people to lose weight! lose weight! lose weight! You're a kilo over your BMI! Lose weight! Doctors must practice this mantra before they leave the house. So concerned are doctors with what people are putting in their mouths that they pay nearly no attention to what they are putting in their lungs.

I'm on board with public health campaigns, and fairly apprised of what the public health concerns are here. It's not contagious disease, it's lifestyle disease. So it's very curious to me that there is no similar campaign encouraging (or harranguing, if you prefer) people to dejar de fumar (stop smoking!). About two years ago a law was passed requiring every business open to the public has to declare itself either a smoking or a non-smoking establishment. Or they have to separate the smokers from the nonsmokers with a wall (which I've seen in exactly two places). The upshot of this is that most cafés have chosen to be smoking establishments, which brings me back to the 80s and 90s in the United States where a quick trip to a restaurant left me needing a shower and a nebulizer (hyperbole people, hyperbole!).

So where is the anti-smoking campaign? Cigarettes are not legally sold to minors, but I repeatedly see kids in school uniforms with cigarettes in hand. Clusters of smokers hang out in front of the entrance of my gym, and at the front of nearly every office building. Maybe they're smoking in an attempt to keep their weight down. If I could communicate one thing to the powers that be, it would be, relax a little on the FOOD KILLS campaign and work a little more on the Hueón! ¿ya dejaste de fumar? (dude (very familliar, also interpreted to mean jerk, and several other more R-rated words) have you stopped smoking yet?)

It would certainly make me breathe a little easier.

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