In the Philippines, it is not uncommon to see children buying cigarettes for their smoking parents. That’s because cigarettes are sold per stick in small neighborhood stores or by ambulant vendors.
Smokers, and retailers ignore the fact that this small act of exposing the younger population to tobacco, through its purchase, aside from the actual smoking, will eventually lure children to the hazardous habit..
But that’s a practice that will no longer be allowed with the signing of Executive Order 26, which bans smoking nationwide.
Under the order, long-awaited by anti-smoking advocates and the Department of Health, selling tobacco products is only allowed a hundred metres away from areas where children may gather. This includes schools and playgrounds. And it bans the sale and distribution to those under 18 years old.
The bigger implication of the new order is prohibiting smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in most public places, whether indoor or outdoor, including sidewalks.
The order defines public places as “fixed or mobile, accessible or open to the public or places for collective use regardless of ownership or right to access.”
A previous anti-smoking law was limited in that only enclosed places banned the practice and designated areas for smoking within establishments. It also banned smoking in public conveyances, including jeepneys and tricycles and pedicabs, all common modes of transportation in the country.
However, it was permissible in open spaces even if these were areas where people or crowds would gather like marketplaces, transport terminals, entranceways and waiting areas.
While smoking areas will still be designated under EO 26, these have to be away from elevators, stairways, health stations, gas stations and wherever food preparation is done.
Smoking outdoors is only allowed in open spaces or outdoors far from areas where people congregate, one which has no permanent or temporary wall or roof, is not within 10 metres of pathways or entrance/exit ways, and where food and drinks are not served.
One important requirement in designating smoking areas is putting up a highly visible sign of “Smoking Area” which must likewise contain a graphic depiction and explanation on the ill effects of smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke.
Partially enclosed spaces such as town squares, covered courts, waiting sheds and footbridges are likewise included in the ban.
In signing the order, President Rodrigo Duterte, who was a former smoker, urged civilians to help government enforce the EO as members of the “Smoke Free Task Force” by apprehending and charging violators.
A fine or imprisonment ranging from Php1,000 to Php5,000 and one to four months incarceration will be imposed on violators. The penalty can either be a fine, imprisonment or both, and varies whether it is the first, second or third offense.
The chief executive quit smoking because of its effects on his health. He has admitted to having been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus and Buerger’s disease. He suffers from an oxygenation problem as a result of smoking and requires the use of an oxygen machine while sleeping.
Although the Philippines has made headway in its anti-smoking campaign through increased levy on cigarettes and the graphic warning on cigarette packaging, there remains an increasing number of minors who are getting hooked on the habit.
According to the Global Epidemic Report of 2015 by the World Health Organization, some 11.8 percent of Filipinos aged 13 to 15 are into smoking. MIMS
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Elma Sandoval, 20 May 2017