Philippines: Bataan city sued over antismoking laws

13 July 2018:

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) has assailed the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) for suing the Balanga City government to stop it from enforcing its two antismoking ordinances.

In its website, Seatca called the PTI lawsuit a form of “intimidation.” PTI, it said, represents tobacco firms and cigarette manufacturers.

PTI has challenged Balanga’s University Town Ordinance of 2008 that regulates tobacco and alcohol use to protect the health of residents and create an environment conducive to the education of the youth.

PTI has also challenged the Tobacco-Free Generation Ordinance of 2016 that regulates the sale of tobacco products to those born on or after Jan. 1, 2000.

‘Extreme’

“Everyone agrees that kids shouldn’t have access to cigarettes. However, we believe the Balanga City ordinance… is a backdoor attempt to rewrite the national law,” PTI said in statement. It was referring to Republic Act No. 9211 which regulates smoking.

“The ordinance is so extreme that it even denies smokers the opportunity to switch to reduced-risk products that are widely considered to be better alternatives to cigarettes,” PTI said.

The group said it asked the regional trial court in Balanga, Bataan province, last month to affirm RA 9211 and nullify the ordinance.

“While PTI acknowledges and respects the authority of municipalities to protect the health of their citizens via various tobacco control measures, we only seek that these measures be consistent with what has been provided [by] the national law,” PTI said.

“A multibillion-dollar industry is suing a small city like Balanga, with a population of only 96,000 people, for protecting its people from premature deaths and the harmful effects of tobacco,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Seatca director for the program implementing the World Health Organization  Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Antitobacco campaign

“If [PTI] is genuinely supportive of a smoke-free world, it should be supporting and not opposing Balanga’s efforts to protect present and future generations from the harms of tobacco and nicotine addiction, in line with the global health treaty,” Dorotheo said.

Balanga’s antitobacco campaign includes an intensive information drive in schools, offices and villages about the ailments attributed to tobacco, tapping volunteers and organizing bike patrols to look for offenders.

It has also opened telephone hotlines and a command center to make sure everyone complies with the smoking and no-smoking guidelines.

The ordinances also make available a mobile clinic that helps people who quit smoking, provide incentives to businesses that promote an antitobacco health program, increase local tobacco taxes and ban tobacco advertising.

The Balanga government helps village leaders quit smoking, sponsors regular running activities as well as jogging and dancing exercises, and develops parks, open spaces and wetland sites.

The city has been included in the Hall of Fame of the Red Orchid Awards given by the Department of Health for heeding the world tobacco control framework.— TONETTE OREJAS

Source: Inquirer