President Duterte has signalled today (Monday, March 6) that he’s ready to sign an executive order to bring in a nationwide smoking ban.
Following a cabinet meeting, it was revealed that the Department of Heath’s (DOH) proposed restrictions could be signed into law as soon as tomorrow.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said: “President Duterte said he will sign it tomorrow.”
This was confirmed by health Secretary Paulyn Ubial who told Rappler that the order would be “signed soon”.
Mr Piñol added that the president was planning to sign the DOH’s draft EO without any changes. “He told Secretary Ubial to stick to the draft EO which DOH prepared.”
This draft, first announced last October, is patterned after Davao City’s strict ban on smoking in public places that Mr Duterte implemented while city mayor.
The order, if signed without changes, would ban smoking in all public places, both indoor or outdoor.
These include parks, bus stations and even in vehicles which are considered public places.
The president, who suffers from Barrett’s Oesophagus after many years as a smoker, has previously stated there is “no debate” about the detrimental effects of smoking.
He has also said he is against the installation of enclosed areas for smokers.
“If you want to smoke, find a place where it is allowed,” he said. “Now, I’ve always been against even building a structure inside just to accommodate smokers. That ain’t the way.
“It must be outside. It must not be in an enclosed cubicle inside the building. That is not good enough.”
Mr Duterte was typically aggressive in implementing the Davao anti-smoking rules when mayor. He was known to chase smoking drivers and once forced a tourist to swallow a cigarette butt.
Former North Cotabato governor Manny Piñol described how the then mayor produced a .38 snub-nosed revolver and pointed at the man’s crotch, saying: “I’ll give you these choices: I’ll shoot your balls, send you to jail, or you eat your cigarette butt.”
The man reportedly apologised and opted to eat the butt.
Last month, we reported how just days after announcing he had quit himself, Manila Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada announced a city-wide ban. (Read more here)
About 17 million people, or nearly a third of the adult population, smoke in the Philippines — the second highest in the region after Indonesia — according to a 2014 report by Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
Nearly half of all Filipino men and nine per cent of women smoke and experts say the habit costs the economy nearly $4 billion in healthcare and productivity losses every year.
However, critics of the ban say it would be unenforceable, ripe for corrupt enforcement officers to seek personal profit and should be a lower priority than reducing pollution generally.