Philippines' Duterte gets tough on tobacco with ban on smoking in public


  • World
  • Thursday, 18 May 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a family photo with other leaders during the Belt and Road Forum at meeting's venue on Yanqi Lake just outside Beijing, China, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order banning smoking in public across the second-most populous country in Southeast Asia, one of the region's strictest anti-tobacco laws.

The ban, which carries a maximum penalty of four months in jail and a fine of 5,000 pesos ($100), covers both indoor and outdoor smoking, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Thursday.

It also covers existing bans on tobacco advertisements, promotions or sponsorship, which are subject to fines of up to 400,000 pesos and maximum jail terms of three years and possible revocation of business permits.

Duterte was himself a heavy smoker but quit when he was diagnosed as suffering from Buerger's disease, which can cause blockages in the blood vessels.

The current ban replicates an ordinance Duterte created in 2012 in his southern hometown of Davao City, Abella said.

Duterte campaigned for the presidency promising to be tough on criminals, the corrupt, and drug pushers and users and to uproot vices one by one, such as smoking and illegal gambling.

The Philippine Tobacco Institute, which represents tobacco interests, was not immediately available for comment. There are eight firms making cigarettes in the Philippines.

Designated smoking areas not larger than 10 sq m (12 sq yards) will be set up for adults only and must be at least 10 metres (11 yards) from building entrances or exits, according to the order signed on Tuesday. Police-led anti-smoking task forces will be created in towns and cities.

The smoking ban also covers "vaping" or the use of electronic cigarettes and will apply in casinos, including gaming floors and entertainment rooms, and inside airport buildings, except in designated outdoor smoking areas.

Philippine public health campaigners have long battled the hefty tobacco lobby and welcomed Duterte's push to end smoking in public.

There are about 17 million Filipino smokers, or nearly a third of the adult population, a 2014 report by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance shows.

Nearly half of all Filipino men and 9 percent of women smoke and experts say the habit costs the economy nearly $4 billion in annual healthcare and productivity losses.

Marlboro owner Philip Morris International, which is estimated to hold more than seven-tenths of the Philippines market through its Fortune Tobacco joint venture, will be among the international producers most affected.

In 2015, the Philippines accounted for almost one in every 13 cigarettes sold by Philip Morris globally, though analysts estimated that was worth about 2 percent of profit.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

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