November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Duterte signs nationwide no-smoking order

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order no. 26 implementing a nationwide smoking ban.

The new EO -- which replicates on a national level an existing law in Davao City where Mr. Duterte was mayor for more than two decades – was signed on May 16, according to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

EO 26 sets strict guidelines on designated smoking areas (DSAs) -- which the order defines as an "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."

Minors are prohibited from entering the DSA or its buffer zone – which refers to a “ventilated area between the door of a DSA not located in an open space and the smoke-free area.’”

The EO also lists the following as areas where smoking is not allowed:
• Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for minors
• Elevators and stairwells
• Locations where fire hazards are present
• Within premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental, optical clinics
• Food preparation areas

Under Section 3, the EO declares the following acts as “unlawful”:
• Smoking within enclosed public spaces and public conveyances;
• For persons of authorities or “persons-in-charge” to allow smoking outside designated smoking areas;
• For any person to sell, distribute or purchase tobacco products to and from minors.
• For minors to smoke, sell or buy cigarettes;
• Compelling a minor use, light up, buy, sell, distribute, deliver, advertise or promote tobacco products;
• Selling or distributing cigarettes in schools, public playground and other “recreational facilities” for minors;
• Displaying advertisement materials of tobacco products within 100 meters from the parameter of facilities frequented particularly by minors;
• Placing any form of tobacco advertisements outside the premises of point-of-sale, which refers to any location at which an individual can purchase or obtain tobacco products; and
• Placing any stall, booth, and other displays concerning tobacco promotions to areas outside the premises of point-of-sale locations or adult only facilities.

Violators of any prohibited acts listed in the document are liable and will be punished in accordance with Republic Act No. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.

Meanwhile, the new EO also directs all cities and municipalities to form a local “smoke-free task force” to help implement the provisions of the document.

To recall, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial expected to receive the final and signed version of the executive order last month.

But it got delayed after some adjustments in the draft were finalized by the President’s legal team, Ms. Ubial said.

“The executive order will actually mandate all the agencies of government, including the local government, to implement this 100% smoking ban in all public places and not just Metro Manila,” Ms. Ubial said.

The Department of Health will now start drafting the implementing rules and regulations of the measure, she said.

Around 17 million people, or nearly a third of the adult population, smoke in the Philippines, according to a 2014 report by Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance -- the second highest in the region after Indonesia.

Nearly half of Filipino men and 9% of women smoke and experts say the habit costs the economy about an annual $4 billion in health care and productivity losses.

Sandra Mullin of Vital Strategies, a global public health organization, said smoke-free laws reduced smoking prevalence by 4% if fully comprehensive. -- with a report from Reuters