Iloilo pushes stricter anti-smoking policies

1 July 2024

By Daily Tribune

The Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force (ICAST) is raising concerns about the increasing use of cigarettes and vapes among students, urging school administrators to fast-track revisions to their anti-smoking policies before the new academic year begins.

“Proper regulation is crucial because it’s a public health issue,” said Iñigo Garingalao, ICAST Executive Director, on Friday. He emphasized the need for comprehensive policies that include awareness campaigns, clear regulations for e-cigarettes, and measures to apprehend minors caught using tobacco products.

ICAST data paints a worrying picture. From January to June 2024, the task force apprehended 3,507 violators of the city’s anti-smoking ordinance, with over 600 being students and 10 minors. Notably, 751 of these violations involved e-cigarettes.

This trend continues a pattern observed in 2023, with ICAST apprehending 10,725 violators, including 1,513 who were vaping. Among these apprehensions, 191 were students and 16 were minors.

Garingalao highlighted the vulnerability of students to misleading advertising by the e-cigarette industry, which often portrays vaping as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

“Last year, many schools were unprepared because their policies didn’t explicitly ban vaping,” he explained. “This allowed apprehended students to claim they weren’t breaking any rules.”

The ICAST chief also noted a concerning rise in vaping, particularly among young people, since the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Vaping is another way of ingesting addictive nicotine, just like cigarettes,” he said. “Without intervention, and with the age of smokers dropping and their numbers increasing, Iloilo risks a generation hooked on nicotine.”

Garingalao acknowledges the challenges of implementing anti-smoking initiatives due to their complex social, economic, and psychological factors. He emphasizes the need for a multi-sectoral approach, working alongside the City Health Office and the Department of Health’s ongoing campaigns. Their strategy focuses on proactive community education through lectures and sharing best practices.