Because the rules can get seriously confusing
In May 2017, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Executive Order No. 26 aka the Smoking Ban, and millions of smokers around the Philippines came together to join in one unified ball of panic and frustration. Reasoning was questioned, methods of implementation were probed and cigarettes were hidden beneath stairwells and trees.
The absolutely not’s
Smoking is now prohibited in public areas. These include:
- Schools/universities of all levels
- Recreational facilities (basketball courts, gyms, swimming pools, etc.)
- Elevators and stairwells
- Anywhere where fire hazards are posted
- Private and public hospitals (including medical, dental and optical clinics)
- Food preparation areas
- Private cars within public spaces
- Public cars (jeeps, busses, trains); ships are exempted if allowed by the sea captain
The safe areas
The safest place to smoke at this point is an establishment with a designated smoking area (DSA). Every building is entitled to one, as long as it’s an open space or is a separated indoor area with proper ventilation. The problem with the latter option is that the establishment also needs to have a buffer area that separates the DSA from the rest of the building, which means the entire space has to be of significant size.
But how do you know if an establishment has a DSA or if the area is safe to smoke in? All DSAs must display a visible “Smoking Area” sign, as well as graphic health warnings and signage that prohibits individuals younger than 18 years. So if you don’t see these things, keep on walking.
The dreaded apprehensions
Individuals caught violating the ban will face fines ranging from P500 to P10,000, depending on the number of offenses already recorded. Meanwhile, establishments risk facing fines of at least P5,000, as well as jail time not exceeding 30 days.
The end goal
Health is the main concern being addressed by the smoking ban. Theoretically, the executive order will be good not just for smokers themselves, but for second-hand smokers as well. In the end, the hope is that the number of people who smoke will decrease on its own. That is, after all, what happened in Davao.
For maybe two months, the application of EO 24 was quite rigid. Establishments disallowed smoking, parking lots had roaming guards to catch ninja smokers and those who dared to smoke on the street were fined. But that was roughly half a year ago and things have changed.
Smokers have learned when and where to light their cigarettes, have become more eagle-eyed when looking out for authorities and have understood that there is power in numbers. Seriously, you hardly see a sole smoker out on the sidewalks now (unless it’s beyond office hours, of course).
This isn’t to say, of course, that the Smoking Ban has not been effective. Because while smokers have a lot more gall to exercise their “freedom” to smoke, establishments are still strict when it comes to the now illegal act happening within their premises. It’s not surprising to see waiters ask customers to kill their cigarettes or for guards to ask people to move outside of their authorized space.
When it all boils down to it, it’s the mentality. You can take the smoker out of the club, but you can’t take habit out of the smoker.
Art Alexandra Lara