Public health campaigners who have long battled against the
country's hefty tobacco lobby welcomed the push to end smoking in
public places and said they believed Duterte, with his tough
anti-vice record, was the man to do it.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial told Reuters on Tuesday
she hoped the president would sign the ban, which expands the
definition of public places, into law before the end of October and
that it would come into effect next month.
She was quoted by newspapers as saying that no smoking would be
allowed in public places, whether indoor or outdoor.
"Parks, bus stations, and even in vehicles. All these are considered
public places," she said, according to media. She later clarified
the law would apply only to public vehicles.
Designated smoking areas will be set up, at least 10 meters (33
feet) outside buildings, according to a draft of the executive order
seen by Reuters.
Around 17 million people, or nearly a third of the adult population,
smoke in the Philippines, according to a 2014 report by Southeast
Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, - the second highest in the region
after Indonesia. Nearly half of all Filipino men and 9 percent of
women smoke and experts say the habit costs the economy nearly $4
billion in healthcare and productivity losses every year.
Sandra Mullin of Vital Strategies, a global public health
organization, said smoke-free laws reduced smoking prevalence by 4
percent, if fully comprehensive.
Marlboro owner Philip Morris International, estimated to hold more
than 70 percent of the Philippines market through its joint venture
with Fortune Tobacco, will be among the international producers most
affected by the proposed ban.
In 2015, the Philippines accounted for almost 1 in every 13
cigarettes sold by Philip Morris globally, though analysts estimated
it was worth a far smaller 2 percent of profit.
A spokeswoman for Philip Morris International referred queries on
the proposed ban to the Philippine Tobacco Institute, which
represents tobacco interests in the country.
A spokesman for the institute said he had no immediate comment on
the proposed ban.
The proposed smoking ban replicates on a national level an existing
law in Davao City, where Duterte ruled as mayor for 22 years until
his rise to the presidency earlier this year.
Penalties for breaking the anti-smoking law in Davao can include a
5,000 Philippine peso ($103) fine or four months in prison.
When Duterte was in Davao, he once personally forced a man to stub
out his cigarette and eat it after he refused to stop smoking in a
restaurant, according to media reports.
A government spokesman declined to comment on the incident but said:
"Certainly in Davao, the sentiment and business establishments
support a smoke-free Davao. The president sees it as something
that's not ideal for health... and this is part of the public
well-being," Ernesto Abella said.
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Duterte also rolled out a number of other strict rules in the city
of 1.5 million during his term as mayor, including banning
late-night drinking and karaoke, and a 10 p.m. curfew for school
children. He also oversaw a severe crackdown on narcotics and crime
in the city, earning him the nickname "The Punisher".
The 71-year old won the presidency on a promise of widening that
crackdown throughout the country of 100 million. Over 3,600 people,
mostly small-time drug user and dealers, have died in police
operations and alleged vigilante killings since he took office in
Anti-tobacco activists said Duterte's reputation meant the
nationwide smoking ban would be implemented.
"This is effectively a scaling up of the Davao City plan," said
Ralph Degollacion of Health Justice Philippines, a local NGO.
"We know his track record... and given the political will in his
government, we're confident that in terms of implementation he will
really push it," he said.
When asked if the ban could extend to alcohol and gambling - both
multi-million dollar industries - government spokesman Abella said
there were no such plans in the offing and that bars and casinos
were continuing to operate normally.
BIG TOBACCO UNDER PRESSURE
The nationwide ban is set to be among the strictest no-smoking laws
in Southeast Asia. The region is home to nearly 10 percent of the
world's smokers and while most countries have partial smoking bans
in place, enforcement is often lax.
The Philippines ban will also cover 'vaping' or the use of
For tobacco companies, already under pressure from tobacco tax hikes
under the previous government, that's bad news.
"A smoking ban could see any further recovery in the sales dynamics
in the market stall," Owen Bennett, equity analyst at Jefferies
International, said in a note.
Duterte's government has also proposed increasing taxes on
cigarettes and other tobacco products, Finance Undersecretary Karl
Kenneth Chua said. The tax would build on a landmark tax-hike
imposed by the previous government, but Chua did not elaborate on
how much additional revenue the government was expected to net.
(Additional reporting by Clara Ferreira Marques in Singapore and
Martine Geller in London; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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