Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III rejected the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) plan on the smoking ban as a measure to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Bello said the IATF originally planned to ban smoking during the COVID-19 Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team visit in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Thursday. Belo, however, opposed the idea of considering its effects on employment and business.
“We can’t ban smoking because it will adversely affect the tobacco industry,” Bello, a vital member of the task force, said.
Belo said the tobacco industry provides the government P145 billion in excise taxes annually while employing 2.5 million Filipino workers.
The industry also gives a significant budget to the Universal Health Fund of the government.
“If we ban smoking, those figures will be severely affected,” Bello said.
“[M]y job is to protect and preserve employment. To achieve that, I help shops to stay in business,” he said.
As a result of DOLE’s opposition to the smoking ban, smoking is still permitted, but it should be done individually in designated smoking areas.
“We can smoke in smoking areas. But the condition is one smoker at a time,” Bello explained.
DOLE chief rejects IATF’s plan on smoking ban
Presidential and Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier announced common smoking areas are now prohibited as part of health protocols imposed in workplaces.
“Bawal ang common smoking areas. Pinapayagan lang po ang individual smoking areas or booths in open spaces,” he added.
(Common smoking areas are prohibited. Only individual smoking areas or booths in open space are allowed.)
Roque added physical distancing and wearing face masks, and face shields should always be maintained in the office, especially if employees are inside a common room.
Frequent handwashing, frequent disinfection, and temperature checks of workers and visitors must be observed as well.
The company should provide a shuttle service for its employees who commute.
Roque added the Department of Labor and Employment, DTI, and local government units would visit and inspect the company’s compliance with the health standards.