THE PHILIPPINES’ chief crime fighter and president Rodrigo Duterte has now set his administration’s crosshairs on irresponsible smokers, with an executive order (EO) banning smoking in public spaces nationwide.
EO No. 26, signed by the president on Tuesday, aims to establish “smoke-free environments in public and enclosed places”, according to CNN Philippines.
This means that once the order, made public on Thursday, takes effect 60 days after publication in newspapers, smoking will only be allowed in designated smoking areas (DSAs) that follow guidelines set by the law.
A copy of the EO on Rappler describes DSAs as, “an area of a building or conveyance where smoking may be allowed, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation.”
The order also says a “non-smoking buffer zone” must be established for DSAs not located in open spaces. It states the buffer zone is “a ventilated area between the door of a DSA not located in an open space and the smoke-free area.”
Places where smoking will be completely banned include all schools from playschools to universities, as well as youth hostels; elevators and stairwells; fire hazard locations; within the premises of public and private hospitals, as well as medical, dental and optical clinics; and food preparation areas.
The order also reinforces an existing law that prohibits the purchase and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to and by minors and in places frequented by minors.
All cities and municipalities are also “enjoined to form a local Smoke-Free Task Force”, to assist in implementing the order.
The New York Times, quoting presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, said those who violate the law could face up to four months in jail and a fine of PHP5,000 (US$100).
There are to date an estimated 122.4 million adult smokers residing in Southeast Asia, according to the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance’s (SEATCA) latest survey in November 2016.
Of the total, half (53.3 percent) reside in Indonesia. The Philippines, on the other hand, is the second-largest tobacco consumer in the region at 13.5 percent. SEATCA’s findings also show female smoking rates to be particularly high in Indonesia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines.
In recent years, more Asean nations have implemented smoke-free policies to protect non-smokers from the health hazards of smoking while encouraging smokers to quit.
Currently, national smoke-free laws prohibiting smoking in hospitality venues such as bars and pubs exist in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Singapore, while similar bans on all indoor air-conditioned and non-conditioned restaurants have been rolled out in Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
In the Philippines, Duterte himself has been a strong advocate of smoke-free policies since his days as Davao City Mayor. The politician was once a smoker and drinker himself but quit both vices decades ago upon discovering he had two rare conditions – Barrett’s esophagus and Buerger’s disease.
According to NYT, Mayor Duterte put in place a universal smoking ban in Davao City in 2002.
Davao City in 2013 also played host to the launch of the Smoke-free Cities ASEAN Network (SCAN) initiative, a coalition of cities in the Asean countries that support each other to achieve its goal of a smoke-free Asean.