ProYosi, a consumer advocacy group, has applauded President Duterte for striking a balance between the rights of smokers and nonsmokers in coming out with his Executive Order (EO) 26, which establishes new rules on smoking in indoor or enclosed places.
Guesting at the weekly Kapihan sa Maynila at the Manila Hotel, Anton Israel, ProYosi president, expressed his group’s support to Duterte’s call for smoke-free environments in public and enclosed spaces while still allowing the practice outdoors and in open areas.
“We are in no way questioning the essence of the EO. We just want to uphold our rights as smokers,” Israel said.
Even the Department of Health (DOH) clarified the public confusion surrounding the implementation of the EO affirming that there is no total smoking ban in the Philippines.
“The EO only provides for the establishment of smoke-free environments in public places and public conveyances,” Dr. Cora Flores, DOH representative, explained during the same forum.
According to ProYosi, the EO in effect now is consistent with the existing Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211), which only restricts smoking in indoor or enclosed areas and allows for smoking in open areas like al-fresco dining spaces or outside of restaurants, open parking spaces and streets.
“ProYosi stands by our advocacy and that is to respect the rights of smokers. Particularly in EO 26, we just want fairness and transparency in the implementation of new smoking rules. There is no absolute smoking ban. I don’t know where that came from,” he added.
Israel expressed hopes the misinformation on EO 26 would be clarified and corrected, even as he appealed to local government units (LGUs) to avoid the “exaggerated” interpretation and enforcement of the EO.
While nonsmokers have the right not to be in the presence of cigarette smoke, the DOH also acknowledges that smoking is a behavior that may not go away.
“We are not saying that we are banning smokers from enjoying their right to smoke. But, of course, do it in a responsible way that the people will not be harmed with smoking,” Flores added.
ProYosi observed that, in some cases, local ordinances are stricter and go beyond the intent and letter of the law, while enforcement tends to be excessive, citing the cases of Makati, Taguig and Muntinlupa cities.
Israel lauded the moves of certain LGUs that opted for a fairer interpretation of the EO, acknowledging the impact to the local hospitality sector, retail trade and even tourism.
“We do not contest the rights of non-smokers to smoke-free air. What we want is for smokers to enjoy their right to smoke in places where they are allowed to smoke,” Israel added.