No ifs, no butts: Date announced for smoking ban

The nationwide crackdown on smoking in the Philippines will come into force on Sunday, July 23, it was announced today (Friday, July 14).

In a press briefing, Department of Health (DOH)  spokesman Dr Eric Tayag advised the public and business owners to get ready for the implementation of the ban or face being among the first offenders to face strict penalties.

“Those who won’t be able to comply with the requirements of the ban, you could be the one that will be made as an example offender,” he said.

Business owners should install “No Smoking” signs of at least eight by 11 inches with the symbol filling at least 60 per cent of the area. They should also put up “Designated Smoking Area” signs which must be accompanied by “graphic” health warnings on the ill-effects of smoking.

It was on May 16 when President signed Executive Order 26, to crack down on smoking in all public and enclosed places nationwide.

The order is based on an ordinance that then-Mayor 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 Southeast Asia. Experts say the habit costs the economy nearly $4 billion in annual 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 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.