Duterte gets tough on smokers

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MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order banning smoking in public across the second-most populous country in Southeast Asia, one of the region’s strictest anti-tobacco laws.
The ban, which carries a maximum penalty of four months in jail and a fine of 5,000 pesos ($100), covers both indoor and outdoor smoking, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.
It also covers existing bans on tobacco advertisements, promotions or sponsorship, which are subject to fines of up to 400,000 pesos and maximum jail terms of three years and possible revocation of business permits.
Mr Duterte was himself a heavy smoker, but quit when he was diagnosed as suffering from Buerger’s disease, which can cause blockages in the blood vessels. The current ban replicates an ordinance Mr Duterte created in 2012 in his southern hometown of Davao City, Mr Abella said.
Mr Duterte campaigned for the presidency promising to be tough on criminals, the corrupt and drug pushers and users and to uproot vices one by one, such as smoking and illegal gambling.
The Philippine Tobacco Institute, which represents tobacco interests, was not available for comment. There are eight firms making cigarettes in the Philippines.
Designated smoking areas not larger than 10 square metres will be set up for adults only and must be at least 10 metres from building entrances or exits, according to the order signed on Tuesday. Police-led anti-smoking task forces will be created in towns and cities.
The smoking ban also covers electronic cigarettes and will apply in casinos, including gaming floors and entertainment rooms, and inside airport buildings, except in designated outdoor smoking areas.
Philippine public health campaigners have long battled the hefty tobacco lobby and welcomed Mr Duterte’s push to end smoking in public.
There are about 17 million Filipino smokers, or nearly a third of the adult population, a 2014 report by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance shows.

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