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A Look At: EO 26

Tobacco consumption is dangerous to the health of the smoker as well as to that of secondhand smokers—this is a fact enunciated by numerous scientific studies. In fact, smoking has been attributed as one of the causes for the increase in today’s mortality rate. Stroke, heart disease, emphysema, cancer and nicotine addiction—these are just some of the tobacco-related diseases that have took the lives of people. Not only that, too much smoke exposure can also cause serious damage to the environment, which can then lead to severe economic and social consequences.

According to the Department of Health, the Philippines is the second largest tobacco consumer in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia. The World Health Organization (WHO) also released its Global Epidemic Report that in 2015, an estimated 11.8 percent of Filipinos ages 13 to 15 used tobacco. — nytimes.com

With the increasing number of tobacco consumers in the country, it has become imperative to find a remedy to deter the adverse effects that it brings. Thus, President Rodrigo Duterte on May 16, 2017, signed Executive Order no. 26 (E.O. 26), an Order “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Spaces.

E.O. 26 was enacted to fortify the State’s duty to instill health consciousness among the people and to protect and promote their right to health as provided in the 1987 Constitution. The statute is also in line with the State’s duty under the Philippine Clean Air Act to ensure that every citizen is secured in his right to breathe clean air.

Some of its prohibited acts include smoking within enclosed public places and public conveyances, whether stationary or in motion, except in DSAs (designated smoking areas), which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation subject to the specific standards provided in the Order. It is also not allowed to sell, distribute or promote tobacco products in certain designated areas like schools, offices, recreational facilities and the like. The ban also encompasses “vaping” or the use of electronic cigarettes. The E.O. likewise puts an absolute prohibition on minors to use, buy and/or sell the aforementioned products. Note, however, that the E.O. does not impose an absolute prohibition on the use and trade of tobacco and tobacco-related products, but only restricts the consumption, sale, and use of the same within specified limits.

Individuals caught violating the smoking ban will be fined an amount ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 pesos, depending on the number of offenses. Owners of establishments may be fined 5,000 pesos or be imprisonment for a period not more than 30 days.

Smoking Ban: Not new in the eyes of society

E.O. 26 is no longer foreign to the public since President Duterte broadcasted during the 2016 presidential campaign his intention to cut down smoking in public places similar to what he did in Davao City back when he was the Mayor thereof. Duterte asserts the effectivity of the ban as evidenced by the decrease in the number of tobacco consumers in the previous years before the ban’s implementation. Davao City was also recognized by the WHO as a prominent example in imposing a no smoking policy in the Philippines.

In a report from the New York Times, Emer Rojas, a cancer survivor and the current president of the antismoking group, New Vois Association of the Philippines, said that he hopes the new measure would significantly reduce smoking in a country where it is common to see adults and children smoking in the street. “More will be saved from debilitating diseases and premature deaths, and this executive order supports other tobacco control initiatives, such as the graphic health warning law.” Rojas said. — nytimes.com

Duterte encourages the people to aid him in putting an end to smoke addiction

Duterte urges the citizens to aid him in apprehending citizens who continue to use and/or sell tobacco products in prohibited areas. Duterte admitted that he used to be a “chain-smoker” during his young age, until he was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease, an illness associated with smoking. This is one of the main reasons why Duterte wants to decrease the fatality rate due to tobacco-related deaths.

The Local Government Units (LGU’s), in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) are also mandated to develop, promote and implement their respective Local Smoking Cessation Programs pursuant to R.A. 9211. LGUs are also encouraged to the increase the participation of public and private facilities who may be able to provide for the requirements of the program.
No accurate data exists as to who are for or against the smoking ban. Even the manufacturers and distributors of tobacco products have yet to comment on the ban’s implementation. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that a majority of President Duterte’s supporters approve of his decision to implement the ban, and a number have expressed their willingness to help the President in his campaign on public health and safety.

E.O. 26 to fortify R.A. 10643

E.O. 26 is believed to be the successor of R.A. 10643, a law passed by former President Benigno Aquino, which mandates the inclusion of graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging. More than 30 existing countries worldwide practice this method to warn users of the side effects of smoking.

The question is: was the law cost effective? Since the implementation of R.A. 10643, there has not been a decrease on tobacco consumption. In fact, it was the opposite. An empirical data from the DOH shows that there had been an increase in the consumption of tobacco and other tobacco related products in the country in the last five years. Needless to say, R.A. 10643 has done little to curb the problem with tobacco consumption. The minimal increase in the price also did not shudder the buying powers of the consumers.

Will E.O. 26 then work? Let us hope for the best! In the end, the test of a statute’s effectiveness depends on how well the enforcers implement its provisions. Moreover, the statute’s success is contingent upon the citizen’s willingness to cooperate. In short, much will depend on the mutual contribution of both parties. Like what they say, it takes two to tango!

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