A nationwide smoking ban goes into effect today with President Duterte’s Executive Order 26. The Philippines is now one of 111 countries around the world – from Albania to Zambia – where smoking ban is public policy. EO 26 bans smoking in all public places, whether indoor or outdoor, whether owned by the government or by private enterprises.
These include schools, workplaces, government offices, restaurants and other dining places, hotels and stores, entertainment centers, with their elevators and stairwells. They include public conveyances such as airplanes, ships, jeepneys, buses, taxis, trains, and tricycles. They include outdoor spaces such as playgrounds, sports grounds, church grounds, hospital grounds, markets, and transportation terminals. There are, however, designated areas where smoking may be allowed, which may be open spaces or separate indoor areas with proper ventilation.
The World Health Organization says the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest health threats the world has ever known, killing over 7 million people a year – 6 million direct tobacco users and the rest, including many children, who are exposed to “second-hand smoke.”
Smokers have been found to have a significantly higher risk of developing cancers of all kinds, notably lung cancer, along with cancers of the bladder, kidney, mouth, esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and blood. Smoking weakens the heart, doubling the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also affect the bones and vision and cause bad breath and even erectile dysfunction.
Last March, when President Duterte directed Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial to draft the executive order to ban smoking nationwide, he disclosed that at one time in his life, he suffered from the effects of his smoking so much that he had to use an oxygen machine when sleeping. He was able to kick the habit, he said, and when he became mayor of Davao City, he implemented a total ban on smoking in public places in the city.
When he assumed the presidency last June, 2016, Duterte immediately launched his campaign against drugs, which he said was destroying so many lives in the nation, but he had not forgotten the other addiction – to smoking – that was also having such a pernicious effect on the health of Filipinos.
Secretary Ubial sees a problem that may arise at some time in the future. We cannot have a total tobacco ban, she said, because we have a tobacco industry which would suffer greatly from a total ban. But eventually, she hoped, the Philippines will be able to support fully the World Health Organization’s call for a tobacco-free world.
As of now, we must content ourselves with President Duterte’s executive order for a smoking ban in public places, allowing for some exceptions for the sake of those who still have difficulty overcoming their addiction. We hope that in time, they will be able to kick this deadly habit for their own sake and then we can move on to put into effect a more encompassing ban on tobacco smoking with its menace to health.