Pasig makes a bold move, 01/02/12

Lucky Pasig City residents. It seems their local government is truly concerned about their health.

It was recently  reported that the city was giving public and private establishments two years to remove smoking areas under an amended anti-smoking ordinance by councilor Alexee Santiago.

Raquel Naciongayo, head of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro), said establishments had until 2014 to remove smoking areas. The ordinance covers beerhouses, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping malls, and other private and public establishments.

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Naciongayo said the city was taking the bold move because it was costing some P15 million a year to provide medical care to smokers while taxes from cigarette manufacturers totaled only P5 million annually.

Health experts and anti-smoking advocates have been doing the math for years, telling governments the money earned from tobacco hardly covered medical care for smokers. In the Philippines, the message is generally ignored by local governments.

Manila, in fact, cannot even enforce the smoking ban in public utility vehicles. While most commuters no longer smoke inside jeepneys, drivers puff away on the streets of Manila. Cigarette vendors, who have disappeared from the streets of other cities, are still in the middle of Manila roads. I am inclined to think that the Metro Manila Development Authority has made the city the metropolis’ smoking area.

Pasig’s new initiative has earned commendation from the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, which stated, “A healthy population is a true indicator of development.” Ipat Luna of HealthJustice Philippines, a nongovernment organization that aims to bridge public health and law, said, “Protecting the constituents is not a choice. It is a minimum requirement.”

The organizations pointed out that Davao City, which had strictly enforced an anti-tobacco ordinance for several years now, already had evidence of how the smoking ban had saved many lives. It was reported that the death rate in Davao from lung cancer dropped from 113 in 2008 to 38 in 2009.


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