Sibugay to breathe fresher air

Authored by Wilfredo L. Sanggayan, the indigenous peoples’ representative to the provincial board, the ordinance seeks to make the province friendly to non-smokers by declaring all government buildings and offices, schools, hospitals and clinics, and all enclosed public places with an area of less than 100 square meters as “absolutely smoke free.”

The ordinance will reportedly take effect once the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) will be formulated by the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) headed by Dr. Ulysses Chiong. But there is no time frame yet when it will be available.

In an interview, Sanggayan said the ordinance was formulated due to the observation that “some smokers appear to be insensitive to the other people’s preferences by smoking even in public places.”

“We need to regulate smoking in the province by declaring some places as smoke-free,” Sanggayan stressed.

Sanggayan clarified that “this is not new since there is a national law regulating the use of cigarettes enacted by the government in 2003”.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9211 (also known as the Tobacco Regulation Act) in 2003 as a response to a call by the World Health Organization for governments to help control smoking.

Under the legislation, the government will strictly implement a smoking ban in all public places, including schools, recreational facilities and areas frequented by children as well as in hospitals, clinics, laboratories and restaurants, among others.

"The new law aims to protect the general public from inhaling smoke emitted by cigars, cigarettes and tobacco pipes, which can contribute to respiratory illnesses," Sanggayan said.

The ordinance also declared as “unlawful to smoke cigarette, cigar or pipe in public conveyances plying in the province”.

Violators will be penalized as follows: P500 for first-time offender; P1,000 for second-time offenders; and P2,000 or imprisonment of no more than six days or both at the discretion of the court for third-time offenders.

In addition, the provincial government “may order the closure of a public place that violates the ordinance”.

"We hope to instill responsibility on smokers of tobacco products that every time they light a stick, they should be considerate of the people around them who helplessly breathe the smoke-polluted air," Sanggayan stressed. (Antonio M. Manaytay / MindaNews contributor)