By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
The Department of Health (DOH) was urged today by an anti-smoking group to create an online reporting system for those who are violating the smoking ban.
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) president Emer Rojas said their group is hoping that DOH will be more proactive in implementing the Executive Order (EO) No. 26, which banned smoking in public places nationwide, by creating a mechanism wherein citizens may report violations.
He said having such a mechanism, such as one through social media, would encourage public vigilance that will help ensure that the objective of the smoke-free EO will be attained.
“We are hoping that the DOH will open a call center, use the existing DOH hotline or, at least, a social media desk, where concerned citizens may report violations of the smoke-free EO,” Rojas stated.
“By having such a mechanism, the government may be able to get reports of individuals, or even establishments that do not adhere to the prohibitions set by EO 26,” he added.
And upon receiving the reports, Rojas further noted, the DOH may now have the necessary information to refer the violations to concerned local government units (LGUs).
“Being the ones mandated to enforce the provisions of the EO, the DOH can refer the reports sent to them to the concerned local Smoke-Free Task Forces for the proper action,” said Rojas.
The cancer survivor-turned-health advocate added that having such a mechanism will help avoid face-to-face confrontations between smokers and nonsmokers.
“Through this mechanism, those who continue to suffer from secondhand smoke now have the opportunity to report violators,” Rojas said.
The group also believes that providing everyone the avenue to report violations will make smokers hesitate from smoking in prohibited areas.
“This refrain smokers on lighting up in abeyance to the smoke-free EO. This is because they would know that their actions can be reported to proper authorities at any time,” Rojas said.
On May 16, President Duterte signed the EO 26, which was titled “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places.” Among the areas where smoking is strictly prohibited are the centers of youth activity, such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels, and recreational facilities for minors; elevators and stairwells; locations where fire hazards are present; within premises of public and private hospitals, as well as medical, dental and optical clinics; and food preparation areas.
A designated smoking area (DSA) is allowed in every building. DSA is defined as an area of a building or conveyance, where smoking may be allowed, that are open spaces or separate areas with proper ventilation. There cannot be more than one DSA per establishment.
On July 23, the nationwide smoking ban officially took effect. While the results of the ban have yet to be seen, health officials and health advocates believe that the presence of such will make a difference.