Groups await executive action on Duterte’s promised nationwide smoking ban

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Various civil society and non-government groups representing health professionals and workers, environment and clean air advocates, tobacco victims, lawyers, youth, and women eagerly anticipate President Rodrigo Duterte’s next step following his assurance last Monday that he would fulfill his promise to implement a nationwide smoking ban.

In a speech delivered last September 26 during the signing of the implementing rules and regulations of the Centenarians Act of 2016 and the awarding of child-friendly local government units, Duterte announced that in the entire Philippines, he “will not allow smoking because you pass cancer to the people who do not want it.”

HealthJustice Philippines, a public health policy think tank and advocacy group with expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, pointed out that some good policies are in place and can be fully implemented.

“National law, ordinances and policies ban smoking in centers of youth activity, restaurants, public vehicles and terminals, food and beverage preparation areas, other public spaces (RA9211), and in government premises (CSC Memorandum Circular 17), but these are not well-enforced. Given the President’s credentials, we are assured that he can cause full implementation of these laws as he has done in Davao,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice.

Last May, Duterte made the same promise on the show “Gikan sa Masa.” He explained that the purpose of the ban is “to protect public health”, adding that “If you have to protect the public, you must be brutal about it.”

Davao City, which Duterte led as mayor for 22 years, is recognized worldwide for the effective implementation of the smoke-free ordinance it passed in 2002. In a publication by the World Health Organization, Davao City is described as “a leading example for taking forward smoke-free agendas in the Philippines.”

Tobacco Control is part of the Duterte Health Agenda, which Health Secretary Ubial revealed during the National Health Summit last September 15. Ubial, who used to be the chairperson of the Red Orchid Awards, the search for 100 percent tobacco-free environment for Local Government Units and government organizations, is a prominent figure in the national and global tobacco control advocacy.

Groups that expressed full support for and optimism over Duterte’s recent pronouncement include HealthJustice Philippines, Philippine Cancer Society, Medical Action Group, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Ang Nars Partylist, Health Futures Foundation, Woman Health Philippines, Hope for the Youth Foundation, Health Care without Harm, Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines, Smoke-Free Albay Network c/o Governor Al Francis Bichara and Ms. Rosas Olarte, Philippine Association of Patient Organizations, Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance, Katipunars, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Student Council.

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