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Groups ask QC authorities to impose smoking ban

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By Chito Chavez

The Quezon City government was asked to assure the public that the no-smoking ban in the city’s nightspots and other public places is fully imposed as patrons have complained that police operatives are solely concentrating on the election “gun ban’’ law.

A smoker lights a cigarette along EDSA in Quezon City, MArch 7, 2017. President Duterte will sign an Executive ORder that prohibits smoking in public areas nationwide. (Mark Balmores)

(Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN)

This was the sentiment of several bar-goers who reported that the local police officers frisked the nightspot’s patrons while totally ignoring customers smoking cigarettes inside these establishments.

Melchor Paclibare a retired government employee who attended a birthday party in one of the city’s nightspots insisted the city government should act on these violations.

He also “feels very uncomfortable’’ when the police officers frisk customers to for firearms in compliance with the ban due to the May 2019 mid-term elections.

“I have to commend the police officers for conducting their inspection in a courteous manner but I also have to point out that they should not ignore the other customers violating the no-smoking ban,’’ Paclibare said.

With these concerns, Councilors Allan Benedict Reyes and Victor Ferrer Jr. asked the city’s local police to also zero in on the other violations committed by the patrons of the city’s nightspots.

Julius Avenido of the city’s Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO) had welcomed such complaints of improprieties. He vowed to coordinate with the city council and the local police “so that sanctions like the revocation of the business permits may be imposed on these erring establishments.”

However, Avenido assured that “due process will be strictly followed by the city government to ensure that fair play and not fabricated complaints are acted on appropriately’’.

In one instance, Paclibare witnessed that an argument ensued when one customer reminded a group in an adjacent table of a bar that smoking in enclosed places is prohibited by law.

With this pressing controversial issue, anti-tobacco use group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) urged the national and local government to exercise further vigilance against parties violating the nationwide no-smoking policy despite the existence of a lawful order.

The group also reiterated its call for the Department of Health (DOH) to tap all available resources for a more pro-active stance in implementing Executive Order (EO) No. 26 by creating a mechanism, where citizens may report blatant violations of the existing law.

NVAP President Emer Rojas said this mechanism such as one through social media, helps the concerned agencies deal with non-compliant EO No. 26 groups.

He also acknowledged that the government needs all the help it could get from ordinary citizens in ensuring that the no-smoking policy is attained.

“We are hoping that the DOH to 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,” said Rojas.

And upon receiving the reports, Rojas said the DOH may now have the necessary information to refer the violations to concerned local government units (LGUs).
The Quezon City government is open to the idea vowing to enforce the smoking ban in the city as mandated in the executive order.

“For sure we support the no-smoking policy of President Duterte. On orders of Mayor Herbert Bautista through BPLO chief Garry Domingo we will take appropriate actions against erring firms found violating the no-smoking law,’’ Avenido noted.

Being the ones mandated to enforce the provisions of the EO, Rojas said the DOH can refer the reports sent to them to the concerned local Smoke-Free Task Forces for the proper action.

Rojas said the move will also deter face-to-face violent confrontation between smokers and non-smokers.

“Through this mechanism, those who continue to suffer from second-hand smoke now have the opportunity to report violators,” said Rojas.

On the other hand, he expressed belief that providing everyone the avenue to report violations will make smokers hesitate from smoking in prohibited areas.

“This [will] make smokers refrain from 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,” said Rojas.

Under EO 26, smoking within enclosed public places and conveyances is strictly prohibited.

Public conveyances refer to modes of transportation servicing the general population, such as elevators, airplanes, ships, jeepneys, buses, taxicabs, trains, light rail transits, tricycles and other similar vehicles.

Public places, meanwhile, are all places, fixed or mobile, that are accessible or open to the public or places for collective use, such as schools, workplaces, government facilities, establishment that provide food and drinks, playgrounds, sports ground or centers, church grounds, health/hospital compounds, transportation terminals, market, parks, resorts, walkways/sideways, entrance ways, and waiting areas.

Liable individuals, according to the EO, are any person, who commits any of the prohibited acts; and persons-in-charge, who knowingly allow, abet, authorize or tolerate the prohibited acts.

The order also provides that all cities and municipalities are enjoined to form a local Smoke-Free Task Force to help carry out its provisions. (Chito A. Chavez)

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