Nationwide smoking ban takes effect July 23

A Department of Health (DOH) personnel pastes an anti-smoking sticker on a public utility bus’ windshield during the DOH’s no smoking campaign that aims to implemant a 100 percent smoke-free public utility vehicles and transport terminals in celebration of the No Smoking Month in Manila on June 17, 2010. AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS / via rappler.com

By AC Nicholls/CNN Philippines – Tricycle driver Ricky Francisco has been hooked on cigarettes for years. He said he typically smokes while waiting for passengers, or sometimes even during his rounds.

But now, Francisco told CNN Philippines he has no choice but to cut down rather than risk paying fines.

“Baka sa CR nalang pagka-ano, ganon kasi mahirap mahuli, mas maganda rin makakatipid tayo nang konti,” he said.

[Translation: Maybe I’ll just do it in the comfort room, it’s hard to get caught. It’s good that I’ll be able to save a little bit.”]

Executive Order 26 or the nationwide ban on smoking takes effect today, July 23.

Under the E.O., smoking is prohibited in public and private transportation utilities, schools, and food establishments. Waiting shed areas, streets and walkways are also covered by the ban.

Individuals caught violating the smoking ban will face fines ranging from ?500 to ?10,000 depending on the number of offenses.

Meanwhile owners of establishments caught violating it may be fined ?5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days.

Local Government Units will take the lead in monitoring compliance with the new policy.

All local governments are required to create a task force that will oversee the ban’s implementation.

Some establishments, meanwhile, have taken measures to comply with the newly-implemented ban.

As the ban takes effect, some have put up signs that warn against smoking, while others have closed smoking areas that do not comply with guidelines on designated smoking areas in E.O. 26.

Despite this others don’t seem to be aware of the new policy.

In an interview, street vendor Romualdo Hesoro told CNN Philippines he’ll continue selling cigarettes along streets. He added, however, he would not light them for the customer.

“Hindi na, bawal eh… Bahala sila kung saan sila magsigarilyo,” he said.

[Translation: I won’t do it anymore since it’s prohibited… It’s up to them where they want to smoke.]

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Palace said the ban was a “milestone” that would lead towards a tobacco-free Philippines.

“This Executive Order is another milestone where the government gives priority to the right to protect public health. The implementation of this EO is a realization of our dream of a tobacco-free future,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

He also urged Filipinos to give support to smoke-free establishments.

“Together, let us give our full cooperation and support to the smoke-free establishments in public and enclosed places,” he added.

The 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Adult Tobacco Survey said around 15.9 million Filipinos aged 15 years and above smoke tobacco.

Tobacco-related diseases cause an estimated six million deaths a year, although the WHO said these results were significantly less than the 17.3 million smokers recorded in the Philippines in 2009.

The drop came as a result of key policy changes in the years in between.

This includes the Sin Tax Reform Law which puts higher taxes on tobacco products and the Graphic Health Warnings Law, which requires cigarette manufacturers to put gruesome pictures of the effects of continued smoking, such as gangrene and mouth cancer, on their packaging.

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