Tell it to SunStar: Advocates urge Marcos to prioritize smoke-free bill

·3 min read

The Philippine Smoke-Free Movement (PSFM) has urged President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to strengthen and prioritize smoke-free policies under his administration.

In a press briefing Monday, June 27, 2022, the PSFM called on Marcos and the members of the 19th Congress to prioritize the passage and enactment of the proposed comprehensive Smoke-Free Environment Law. A similar bill was filed in the outgoing Congress to protect the Filipino people against cigarette smoke amid the pandemic.

“Umaasa kami, na tulad ni Presidente [Rodrigo] Duterte at Bise Presidente [Leni] Robredo, na makakasama namin sa laban para sa kinabukasang malaya sa usok sina Presidente Bongbong Marcos at Bise President Sara Duterte. Inaasahan din namin na titindig ang ating mga kongresista at senador para sa kabataan at kalusugan sa pagpasa ng Smoke-Free Bill sa bagong kongreso. Tulad ng dati, kami ay bukas sa kooperasyon, sa pagtutulungan with our new government,” said PSFM national coordinator Xavier Peredo.

The Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan (Aktib) Philippines, a people’s organization which has long campaigned for smoke-free communities and schools also joined the clamor as a member of PSFM.

“Wala na pong hihigit sa pagkakaroon ng batas na magsisilbing proteksyon namin laban sa usok ng yosi sa mga pampublikong lugar. Ang kabataan na pag-asa ng bayan ay hindi dapat malason sa adiksyon ng yosi,” said Aktib Youth national spokesperson Shaina Fernandez.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2015, the average age of smoking initiation in the country for males and females is 19 years old. This is critical as evidence suggests that the brain keeps developing until age 25. It has been established that using products with nicotine under age can harm the part of the brain responsible for memory, attention and learning.

Further, Aktib national chairman Ernesto “Ka Erning” Ofracio also appealed for Marcos’ backing while emphasizing the relevance of smoke-free policies within communities.

“Panawagan namin kay Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr., tulungan ninyo kami. Bagama’t kayo ay nasa rehiyon ng taniman ng mga tabako, kayo po ay pangulo ng buong Pilipinas. Kailangan namin ang inyong tulong upang masugpo ang pinsala na nililikha ng sigarilyo, lalo na ngayong pandemya,” Ofracio said.

With the new set of leaders, the PSFM hopes to pass a Smoke-Free Environment Bill, which proposes a smoke-free environment in all public places and workplaces, amending for the purpose Republic Act 9211, otherwise known as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.

Its salient features include the expansion and institutionalization of the smoking ban in public places; removal of indoor designated smoking areas and promotion of smoke-free workplaces; ensuring of sufficient and sustainable funding for tobacco control in the local levels; creation of local government units’ (LGUs) Smoke-Free Task Force; institutionalization of the inclusion of smoke-free environments in the sought after awards for LGUs; and increase in the penalties for violations of the smoke-free environment.

“Bakit napakahalaga ng mga patakaran na ito? Apart from the fact that it is a right enshrined in our constitution—the right to public health, did you know that over 90 percent of Filipino adults support a ban on smoking in all public places? So, over 90 percent. Kahit na ‘yung mga taong nagyoyosi, 86 percent agree that we should ban smoking in all public places. There is an overwhelming support na huwag ipahamak ang mamamayan natin sa ills ng smoking,” said Social Watch Philippines co-convenor Dr. Maria Victoria Raquiza, citing a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in December 2020.

Established in July 2020, the movement has 77 member organizations from tobacco control and public health advocates, community and people’s organizations, children and youth groups, organizations of former smokers, environmental organizations and other civil service organizations. It also has a strong partnership with the Department of Health and the Department of Education.

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