By Warren Elijah Valdez
DAVAO CITY – With the city government’s effort to make Davao City a smoke-free city by 2022, the Vice Regulation Unit (VRU) has seen an increase in the number of apprehended violators.
In a copy of the report released by the VRU on Wednesday, February 26, about 14,008 apprehensions have been recorded from January to December 2019.
Out of the total number, 12,650 persons have undergone counselling sessions apart from being meted the penalty fee for the violation of the smoking ordinance.
This figure was higher compared with the number of violators apprehended in 2018 with 9,521 apprehensions and 7,799 individuals to have been counseled and fined.
Meanwhile, a total of P8,864,405 from fines was collected by the VRU on both the smoking and liquor bans strictly implemented by the authorities; P6,339,205 was collected from the apprehended anti-smoking ban violator, while P2,325,200 were from the fines imposed on the liquor ban.
VRU head Ashley Lopez said the increase was primarily due to the additional law enforcers integrated and deputized to implement the law.
He said one reason for this was because the city has been trying to maximize the number of enforcers that could cover every corner of Davao City. Lopez noted that enforcers have been present almost 24/7.
“Before, swerte na kung manghuhuli yung enforcer ng once a week. Minsan they would only do it over the weekends as it is the peak time for people to smoke and drink,” Lopez said.
At present, the VRU has a total of eight administrative personnel, while there are around 70 deputized personnel deployed in the field. Additional enforcers also comes from auxiliary group from the city’s security sector and more than 3,000 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel who are automatically deputy direct enforcers of anti-smoking ordinance and liquor ban in the city.
Lopez said, however, that even with the implementation of the law, it did not mean that it would automatically or immediately stop individuals from smoking as it needs further supplemental interventions.
“Those that you know who stopped, they just stopped temporarily. But when they get back to their homes, they go back to smoking again. Why? Because there is no intervention provided to the patient,” Lopez added.
“We have to consider that smoking especially those who have been smoking for many years, rigorously smoking, it is already considered as a medical disorder. Medical disorder acquired from smoking is the nicotine dependence or nicotine addiction,” he said.
Lopez said the enforcement/apprehension the VRU does particularly in public places, is just one of the steps to clear out smoking in public places.
Ordinance No. 0367-12 or the Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance of Davao City prohibits smoking in public places, government-owned vehicles, accommodation and entertainment establishments -such as bars and hotels. It also prohibits smoking in workplaces, enclosed or partially enclosed public places, and public buildings.