The nationwide smoking ban mandated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 26 has taken its full effect last July 23.

Department of Health secretary Paulyn Ubial said some 1.5 million Filipinos will be spared from developing tobacco-related illnesses in the next five years with this milestone taken by the government.

This kind of health policy work on multiple levels because it reduces secondhand smoke exposure, sends a message, especially to kids, that smoking is unacceptable and makes it easier for smokers who wish to quit.

More than this, an aspect of smoking the only a few consider is the resources needed to produce cigarettes itself. In fact, entire forests are cut down to create the paper for rolling tobacco as well as the fuel for drying tobacco. Imagine how much trees can be saved if less people smoke.

Under the EO 26, covered by the ban are public and private transportation utilities, schools, government facilities, children activity centers, food establishments, street or walkway, waiting shed areas, markets, health care facilities, parking lots and transportation terminals, church grounds, markets and parks, among others.

The EO also requires establishments to put up “No Smoking” signs that measure at least 8 by 11 inches, with a “No Smoking” symbol occupying at least 60 percent of the sign. Designated smoking areas should be open or rooms with adequate ventilation and must be separated from other rooms.

Ubial said local government units will take the lead in implementing the nationwide smoking ban. There will be “no grace period” for establishment and vehicle owners to adjust to the EO’s requirements, hence all local governments are required to create a task force that will oversee the ban’s implementation. Individuals caught violating the smoking ban will face fines ranging from P500 to P10,000 depending on the number of offenses. Meanwhile, owners of establishments caught violating it may be fined P5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days.

The government has also implemented other policy changes under the banner of smoking: Sin Tax Reform Law which puts higher taxes on tobacco products and the Graphic Health Warnings Law, which requires cigarette manufacturers to put gruesome pictures of the effects of continued smokiing, such as gangrene and mouth cancer, on their packaging.

The Department of Health (DoH) has established a hotline for the public to report establishments violating the nationwide smoking ban. The public may report establishments in violation of the provisions of the smoking ban through the DOH Hotline (02) 711-1002.

Smoking ban had been implemented at Davao City in 2002 where President Duterte had previously served as a mayor. Through the Davao City Anti-Smoking task Force, individuals who violate the anti-smoking ordinance are issued with citation tickets which specifies the corresponding penalty.

Aside from the issuance of citation tickets, the new ordinance now prohibits smoking of any tobacco product including e-cigarettes, shishas and the like, in all accommodation and entertainment establishments, workplaces, government-owned vehicles, other means of public transport, etc. within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.

Aside from the Philippines, many countries in Asia had long before implemented the smoking ban like China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.

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