Philippines' Duterte bans smoking in public, and asks citizens to help

The executive order by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte prohibits the use of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, in all public spaces, even sidewalks.
The executive order by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte prohibits the use of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, in all public spaces, even sidewalks.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (NYTIMES) - President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a deadly campaign to eradicate drug use in the Philippines, has now ordered a strict public ban on smoking and called on citizens to help local authorities apprehend smokers.

The executive order, signed early this week and made public on Thursday (May 18), prohibits the use of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, in all public spaces, even sidewalks. It also forbids anyone under 18 from "using, selling or buying cigarettes or tobacco products".

More than a quarter of Filipinos smoke, according to a 2015 World Health Organisation report, including 11 percent of minors.

The nationwide measure, known as Executive Order 26, is similar to the near universal smoking ban Mr Duterte put in place in Davao City in 2002, when he was the city's mayor. A former smoker, Mr Duterte quit cigarettes and drinking decades ago, when he was found to suffer from two rare conditions, Barrett's esophagus and Buerger's disease.

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According to the new order, tobacco cannot be sold within 100 metres of schools, playgrounds or anywhere children might gather. Municipalities must also designate smoking areas that are far from these places, and away from elevators, stairwells, gas stations, health centres and wherever food is prepared.

"No smoking" signs are to be posted in all public places.

The order also called on civilians to join a "Smoke Free Task Force to help carry out the provisions of this order" and apprehend and charge violators.

Calling for citizens to enforce the ban raises the specter of vigilantes carrying out their own interpretation of Mr Duterte's strict prohibitions, as was reported during his tenure as mayor of Davao dating to the 1980s.

Since taking office last year, Mr Duterte has overseen a brutal anti-drug campaign that has killed thousands of people suspected of being drug users and dealers, often without trial.

Violators of the smoking ban in Philippines could face up to four months in jail and a fine of 5,000 pesos (S$140), the presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Thursday.