By Chito Chavez
An anti-smoking advocate insisted that law enforcers and concerned government agencies should strictly enforce the smoking ban on transport terminals and other public places as the country observes Holy Week.
The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) issued the call as millions of Filipinos head to the provinces and storm churches during the almost week-long observance of Lent.
Observers noted that defiant passengers in bus terminals in Quezon City remained scot-free despite violating the no smoking ban to the detriment of other commuters who are inhaling second-hand smoke.
“I would ask the local police to do something about this. The NVAP’s call should be heeded as smoking in non-smoking areas can cause health concerns,’’ Quezon City Councilor Victor Ferrer Jr. said.
“We want to remind the public that there is a law prohibiting smoking in public areas such as bus terminals, airports, seaports, and places of worship. We also appeal to our law enforcers to apprehend violators as smoke from tobacco poses dangerous health risks to second-hand smokers especially to vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with existing ailments,” NVAP President Emer Rojas added.
Section 5 of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act enforces total smoking ban in all public areas and offers penalties for violators.
Under the law, a first-time offender can be slapped with between P500-P1,000 in fine or an eight-hour community work. A second offense can be penalized with between P1,000-P5,000 in fine or 16 hours of community service.
Rojas urged police authorities and the Metro Manila Development Authority to watch out for violators as smokers may take advantage of the volume of people flocking bus terminals, airports and seaports to evade authorities.
Designated smoking areas in public vehicle loading and unloading bays were placed but authorities have enforced total smoking ban on stairwells such as pedestrian footbridges.
Authorities said the volume of travellers had picked up Thursday with the estimated number of vehicles reaching 200,000 at the North Luzon Expressway alone.
“There is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke as the person inhaling the smoke from the person puffing cigarette is equally affected by the harmful emission from tobacco,” Rojas said.
Tobacco contains 7,000 harmful chemicals including 70 carcinogens or cancer-causing ingredients. Its use is blamed for close to 90,000 annual deaths due to cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular and respiratory ailments in the Philippines.
It is estimated that 24 million Filipinos are exposed to tobacco smoke on a daily basis with 67 percent inhaling second-hand smoke in their workplace while 76 percent in areas where smoking bans are not in effect.
Lung cancer is the most common of all cancers that is caused by smoking.