Smoke Free Philippines!

Smoke Free Philippines!

I Grew Up With Tobacco 

Where I grew up every boy held three things in the highest esteem: his baseball glove; his bike; and his Skoal.

I was dipping before my tenth birth day. I began dabbling in tobacco much earlier than that. By 16 I was a pack-a-day Camel smoker. At 18 I switched to Marlboro Reds.

In my early twenties I woke up to the mind control that Big Tobacco was using on me. I kicked the habit and have hated tobacco with a passion ever since.

I now find the smell of tobacco to be sickening and it bothers me when someone thinks that they have the right to pollute my family's air when we are in some public place or on a bus. 

Philippines Has Had Anti-Tobacco Laws For Decades

RA 8749, also known as the Clean Air Act, was passed in 1999 and made it illegal to smoke inside public buildings and public transport. Even so, I cannot count how many times I have seen people smoking in jeepneys and on buses.

RA 9211 made it illegal for minors to buy tobacco products and for businesses to sell tobacco products to them. Even so, I see have young kids smoking near our place and elsewhere for years. Only a couple of months ago I was at a store when a shoe-less little girl entered. Her father had sent her to purchase a hand full of single cigarettes. She could not have been much more than five years old - if even that.

Executive Order No. 26

In 2017 Executive Order No. 26 was signed with the intent of creating a smoke free public environment nationwide.

Section 4(2) of EO No. 26 states that any designated smoking area must be no less than "ten (10) meters from any entrances, exits or any place where people congregate or in front of intake ducts" including but not limited to:
  • Government buildings
  • Public and private educational facilities
  • All places of work 
  • Food and drink establishments 
  • Hotels and other accommodation facilities 
  • Public and private health facilities 
  • Transportation terminals 
  • Churches 
  • Malls, shopping centers and retail stores 
  • Entertainment establishments 
  • Sports venues 
Some of the specific prohibitions from Section 3:
(a) Smoking within enclosed public places conveyances, whether stationary or in motion, except in DSAs fully compliant with the requirements of Section 4 of his Order; 

(b) For persons-in-charge to allow, abet or tolerate smoking in places enumerated in the preceding paragraph, outside of DSAs fully compliant with Section 4 of this Order;

(c) For any person to sell, distribute or purchase tobacco products to and from minors. It shall not be a defense for the person selling or distributing that he/she did not know or was not aware of the real age of the minor. Neither shall it be a defense that he/she did not know nor had any reason to believe that the cigarette or any other tobacco product was for the consumption of the minor to whom it was sold;

(d) For a minor to smoke, sell or buy cigarettes or any tobacco products;
Of particular interest is "b" above. Paragraph "b" makes persons-in-charge of public buildings and private businesses responsible to ask smokers to stop smoking in non designated areas and to report those who continue to violate the law:
Section 6(b) Persons-in-charge who knowingly allow, abet, authorize or tolerate the prohibited acts in Section 3 or who otherwise fail to fulfill the duties and obligations in Section 5 hereof.

Section 5(g) requires persons-in-charge to first warn smokers to stop and if they refuse to stop then they must be reported to the nearest city/municipal Health Office, police officer or member of the Smoke Free Task force.
A Smoke Free Task Force (SFTF) is to be created by each city/municipality. The SFTF may perform stings on businesses suspected of selling tobacco to minors and they also may roam around in plain clothes making sure that smokers are respecting non-smoking areas and citing those who break the law.

The Bottom Line

Since the passing of EO No. 26 I have been reading about and hearing about its implementation in numerous localities. At last it is being implemented in our own municipality. The rude loitering smokers billowing toxic fumes in your face when you exit any building have vanished. The kids buying cigarettes have disappeared. It is a very real and very welcome change.

I support the right of smokers to give themselves cancer in the privacy of their own homes, but they have no right to make the rest of us share their fate.

Public smoking is an extremely rude and selfish act. It is like spitting on people. You might catch something from being spit upon, but we know for a fact that second-hand smoke causes cancer and kills people. It also gets kids who grow up around it hooked for life.

I consider the implementation of Smoke Free Municipalities to be a very positive step and a giant leap into civilization.