Davao OKs new anti-smoking ordinance

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – The city council here approved during its regular session n Tuesday the new comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance as proposed by Councilor Tomas Monteverde IV.

“We do not wish to condemn smokers. We understand and sympathize with them. It is extremely difficult to stop smoking,” Monteverde addressed the council before the unanimous voting.

But he stressed that as public officials, members of “the city council [have] to come to the aid of the public to ensure their right to life, to be free from danger and risk and that their safety must be assured.”

It is not an amendment of the city ordinance on anti-smoking in 2002, but a totally new ordinance, Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, co-chairperson of the Anti-Smoking Task Force, told journalists at the sideline of the session.

Chaired by Mayor Sara Duterte, the task force was created through Executive Order No. 25 to “monitor compliance and implementation of the comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance, conduct advocacy and campaigns and support the city police in filing charges for violation.”

Citing that the task force and city council will prepare the implementing rules and regulations of the new ordinance, Villarreiz said it is not in conflict with Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.

She said the new ordinance has wider scope as it applies to all tobacco products listed in the tobacco atlas. Aside from manufactured cigarettes, it includes water pipes or shisha, and electronic or e-cigarettes that are available here.

In case there will be new tobacco products even if it would be 10 years from now, Villarreiz said, this ordinance will be able to respond to emerging tobacco products.

“We’re not banning shisha. We’re not banning e-cigarettes. We’re just regulating their use. So like the use of cigarettes, [we can allow use of these] only in designated areas for smoking,” she said.

She stressed out that indoor smoking areas are now prohibited under the new ordinance.

However, she pointed out that the number of establishments with smoking areas is negligible, citing that out of some 34,000 establishments in the city, only less than 20 establishments have indoor smoking areas.

She said the new ordinance only allows smoking outside a building and not in enclosed places.

An enclosed place, as defined in the previous ordinance, refers to “an area which is closed whether totally or partially at the sides and is roofed or makes use of the flow above it as a ceiling, or even if open on all sides but is covered by a roof, permanent or temporary in nature.”

She said penalties are increased with the new anti-smoking ordinance, ranging from P1,000, P2,500, and P5,000 for the first, second, and third and subsequent offenses, respectively.

Under the previous ordinance, the fines range between P500 and P2,000.

She also mentioned that instead of being penalized for the first offense, a violator will be issued a citation ticket to pay for an administrative fine of P500 with the City Treasurer’s Office three days from the day of apprehension.

The length of imprisonment has also been increased to one month, two months and four months, depending on the gravity of the offense, Villarreiz said, noting that RA 9211 does not have imprisonment.

“We have to make a very strong ordinance by increasing the penalty and inclusion of imprisonment,” she said, adding that no one was imprisoned during the previous anti-smoking ordinance.

She said the new ordinance is a joint effort of the city council and the task force in order for them to protect the public from the harmful effects of second hand smoking.

“If this is a model ordinance, this will be used internationally,” she said, citing that the World Health Organization has adopted the city’s anti-smoking ordinance definition of enclosed place.

At least 12,000 violators of the anti-smoking ordinance had been apprehended in this city since 2002, or an average of more than 1,000 violators every year. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)