Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed a restriction on smoking in public places – with offenders facing up to four months in prison.
The leader signed an executive order for an ‘absolute ban’ on smoking in schools, gas stations, hospitals, ‘food preparation areas’ and stairwells.
Any individual who breaks the rules could face $100 fines or four months in a prison.
Duterte has already launched a war on drugs in the nation in which thousands have died.
33% of the populace – around 17 million individuals – still smoke, meaning the new law could prove hard to enforce.
However, the ban received wide support. With anti-tobacco activists hailing it as a triumph and a few smokers saying they are prepared to quit the habit.
Even an industry lobby group, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), said it supported the regulation and recognized the health objectives.
The official request to ban smoking, postponed from a year ago because of corporate resistance, sets strict rules on designated smoking areas.
Shares in LT Group Inc, the Philippines’ top cigarette maker, fell as much as 4.4 percent to an almost one-month low after the news.
‘This is a triumph for us,‘ said Maricar Limpin, official chief of Action on Smoking and Health Philippines.
‘This (order) highlights the need to protect the people from the harsh exposure to second-hand smoke.’
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial expressed optimism the ban would urge individuals to stop.
“More than a million Filipinos quit smoking between 2010 and 2015, the biggest ever reduction in the world. By 2020, when we do the next survey, we expect almost or even higher reduction in cigarette prevalence,” she said.
Jojo Primivida, a 48-year-old driver, and father of six said he was prepared to stop, mindful of the intense regulations and penalties.
“I know I can do it. I’m a heavy smoker before, but now I smoke only after meals.”
Office worker Jobell Lisana said he has been smoking since school days, however, was ready to stop.
“Quitting is easier said than done, but I will probably stop because of the fines and penalties.”
The PTI lobby group said it agreed to the new rules.
“We have constantly supported regulation of public smoking as provided under the national law. Including the designation of smoking areas.”
The group represents tobacco organizations, for example, Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc, Fortune Tobacco Corp, British American Tobacco, JT International (Philippines) Inc, among others.