After months of apparent prevarication, President Duterte has signed an executive order banning smoking in public throughout the Philippines.
The ban, which could see persistent offenders jailed for four months and fined 5,000 pesos, covers both indoor and outdoor smoking — making it one of the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the world.
The new order announced today (Thursday, May 18) also absorbs existing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship — which can see offenders jailed for three years, fined 400,000 pesos and have business permits revoked.
For many years, the president was himself a heavy smoker but gave up after he was diagnosed as suffering from Buerger’s disease, which can cause blockages in the blood vessels.
The new ban is based on the ordinance that then-Mayor Duterte slapped on Davao City in 2012.
Designated smoking areas not larger than 10-square-metres are permitted, but must be at least 10 metres from building entrances or exits. Police-led anti-smoking task forces will be created in towns and cities.
The ban also covers the use of electronic cigarettes.
There are about 17 million Filipino smokers, or nearly a third of the adult population, one of the highest rates in the region. Experts say the habit costs the economy nearly $4 billion in annual healthcare and productivity losses.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea described the ban, saying: “Public places means all places, fixed or mobile, that are accessible or open to the public or places for collective use, regardless of ownership or right to access, including but not limited to schools, workplaces, government facilities, establishments that provide food and drinks, accommodation, merchandise, professional services, entertainment or other services.
“It also includes outdoor spaces where facilities are available for public or where a crowd of people would gather, such as, but not limited to, playgrounds, sports grounds or centres, church grounds, health/hospital compounds, transportation terminals, markets, resorts, walkways/sidewalks, entrance ways, waiting areas and the like.”
All forms of public transport are also covered by the ban.
It remains to be seen how widely implemented the new order will be. In March, we reported how the president’s daughter Sara, the current Mayor of Davao City, was launching a “vice squad” to crackdown on her father’s anti-smoking ordinance, due to widespread breaches.