The passing of a bill that seeks to protect children from cigarette smoke exposure is in the works.
Through House Bill 8395, Manila Rep. John Marvin ‘Yul Servo’ Nieto wants to amend Sections 6 and 29 of the Republic Act (RA) 9211, also known as Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.
Under the current RA, Section 6 designates smoking and non-smoking areas in all enclosed spaces that are open to the general public, private workplaces, and other places. Nieto proposes to prohibit smoking in all school-related activities, whether within or outside the school premises and whether held indoors or outdoors.
Meanwhile, Section 29 legislates the creation of an implementing agency—otherwise known as Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco)—that shall have the exclusive power and function to administer the provision of this RA. The IAC-Tobacco, as per the current version, shall be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), with the Department of Health (DOH) as Vice Chairperson. Nieto proposes that the positions be exchanged.
The bill also provides that smoking and non-smoking signage—at least one legible and visible—be made part of the requirements for the issuance and/or renewal of the business permits and/or permits to operate of establishments, health facilities, or schools. Failure to comply therewith is a ground for the denial or revocation of such permits.
“It is urgent that the State implement various safeguards to protect the future of the children in the country,” says Nieto, as reported by Manila Bulletin.
In 2015, the Department of Health (DOH), through the Philippines’ Global Adult Tobacco Survey, recorded 15.9 million Filipino tobacco smokers. This was a considerable improvement in comparison to the 17.3 million Filipino tobacco smokers tallied in 2009.
The significant decrease was primarily due to the taxation measures imposed on tobacco products since 2013, which made them less affordable and less accessible. Also, in 2016, the Graphic Health Warnings Law was enacted which required all tobacco products manufactured or imported for sale in the Philippines to carry graphic health warnings.
A year after, in 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order banning smoking in public places nationwide.
But in the recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia in January this year, nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that smoking in public places should be prohibited. This goes to show that, despite the provisions of the law, the implementations are not strictly executed.
Children’s vulnerability to cigarette smoke
In a 2011 study by the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, as referenced by the World Health Organization, almost half of the world’s children are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.
Second-hand smoke is the combination of a smoker’s exhaled cigarette smoke and the smoke that comes from the tip of the burning cigarette. If inhaled, it causes immediate adverse effects on the human body systems.
Studies show that children are more vulnerable to second-hand smoke than adults, because of their small stature and developing respiratory system. This puts them at risk of—among others—lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that may develop in their adulthood.
According to DOH, there are about 87,000 yearly deaths among Filipinos related to smoking. This amounts to an annual economic loss of approximately 188 billion from tobacco-related hospitalization and productivity losses.
What makes this statistics more alarming is the high probability that out of these thousands of deaths, many are caused by second-hand smoking, killing even the ones as innocent as children.
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