Philippines: General Santos City clamps down on smoking
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Philippines: General Santos City clamps down on smoking

General Santos City officials are not worried being accused of being copycats of neighboring Davao City.

“It is for the good of our constituents,” Mayor Ronnel Rivera said during the launching of a new city ordinance that put more teeth on a 23-year old city law that bans smoking in public places.

The new city ordinance now bans smoking in enclosed public buildings or those that are privately owned but used, rented or occupied by government offices and agencies or any of its instrumentalities and in any workplaces, whether public or privately-owned.

It repealed the City Crdinance No. 9 series of 1992) or the 1992 Anti-Smoking Ordinance passed by the City Council.

The new smoking ban also is in effect in public outdoor spaces where a crowd of people gather or congregate regardless of ownership.

This includes covered outdoor spaces, parks, playgrounds, sports grounds, or centers, gaming areas, cock fighting areas, healthcare/hospital compounds, memorial parks, memorial gardens, beaches, resorts, pools, market streets, sidewalks, parking areas, walkways, entrance ways, waiting areas, stairwells, and the like.

Councilor Rosalita Nuñez, principal author of the ordinance, said the local legislation carries with it fines and imprisonment or both for violators.

Also covered by the ban are government-owned vehicles and public transport.

The new anti-smoking ordinance also makes permitting, abetting, tolerating or knowingly allowing smoking in the restricted areas unlawful and violators will likewise be penalized for it.

It will also be unlawful to obstruct or refuse the entry of any member of the Anti-Smoking Task Force or its duly deputized enforcers into places covered by the ordinance.

Mayor Rivera said the ban is good for the health of residents here especially when told that smokers hooked up on cigarettes are getting younger.

He also cited statistics pointing to 10 Filipinos dying every hour due to cigarette smoking.

Rivera himself is a heavy smoker but quit five months ago on the advice of his doctors.

Another former heavy smoker, Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr, said he will introduce another ordinance banning the retail sale of cigarettes by the stick or packs in the city.

“There are no graphic warnings in cigarettes sticks and packs which is a violation of the Philippine Clean Air Act,” he said.

Gacal is hoping his proposed ordinance will make it more difficult to sell cigarettes in the city.

Gacal, one of the trusted lawyers of former eight-division world boxing champion and Rep. Manny Pacquiao, suffered from a massive stroke two years ago but survived his life-threatening ordeal.

He said he has quit smoking since then.

The city is hoping to follow the lead of Davao City which has been clamping down on smokers for over two decades.

Prominent personalities have been arrested, including government officials who recently attended the convention of the Philippine Councilors League in Davao City.

Like Rivera, Davao City Rodrigo Duterte was a former heavy smoker.

But his no-nonsense drive to rid public spaces and establishments of smokers has earned the city raves for successfully implementing the smoking ban in the city.

Aside from a ban on smoking, Davao City is also strictly implementing a ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics and imposing a city wide speed limit.