Does it have you chok­ing on air?

FHM (Philippines) - - Contents - words Juju Z. baluyot

−−M.Pi­rante Perez is a 30-year-old jour­nal­ist for a weekly lo­cal news magazine. And as how writ­ers are usu­ally ro­man­ti­cized in old movies, Perez starts his day with a quick puff on a cig­a­rette. Be­cause of the de­mands of his job—look­ing out for sto­ries, in­ter­view­ing high-pro­file of­fi­cials, and the ac­tual writ­ing it­self that of­ten gives him rest­less days and sleep­less nights—perez needs a reg­u­lar push. Oth­ers get that push from cof­fee. Oth­ers from food binges. Perez gets his from cig­a­rettes.

As he ar­rives at the agreed meet­ing place, he emp­ties his pock­ets be­fore set­tling down: car keys, some pens, can­dies, and of course, there’s that pack of cig­a­rettes. And the first thing he says is that he is a hel­luva smoker. “When I wake up, I smoke. Af­ter I fin­ish a meal, I smoke again.

‘Pag bu­sog ka kasi, when you smoke, parang bum­ababa ‘yung ki­nain mo.

So af­ter ng meal, nag-i-smoke ako ‘di ba? Pag­pa­sok ko sa CR, ayan, smoke ako roon ulit. Then when I leave the house and go to work, ka­pag nasa car na ako, yosi ulit.”

He smokes a pack a day. “A good half of the pack will be smoked in the of­fice. And the re­main­der of that will be at home when I am try­ing to pol­ish an ar­ti­cle that’s due,” he says. “I am, with­out a doubt, a heavy smoker.”

“So how do you feel about the smok­ing ban?” we ask.

“Man, that ques­tion makes me want to puff a cig­a­rette right now.”

Smok­ing is dan­ger­ous to your health—but no­body’s Stopping you

Last May Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte signed Ex­ec­u­tive Order No. 26, the na­tion­wide smok­ing ban. It pro­vides

“for the es­tab­lish­ment of smoke-free en­vi­ron­ments in public and en­closed spa­ces,” which means you can’t smoke in “en­closed public spa­ces and public con­veyances, whether sta­tion­ary or in mo­tion, ex­cept in Des­ig­nated Smok­ing Ar­eas (DSA).” The order ap­plies “to all per­sons, whether res­i­dent or not, and in all places, found with the ter­ri­to­rial ju­ris­dic­tion of the Philip­pines.”

The order, ap­par­ently, is in com­pli­ance with a World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion treaty, the Frame­work Con­ven­tion on To­bacco Con­trol, en­forced in 2005, of which we are a party. This is apart from our own Clean Air Act of 1999, which al­ready pro­hibits smok­ing “inside en­closed public places, in­clud­ing public ve­hi­cles and other means of trans­port, and other en­closed ar­eas”, and ul­ti­mately, the Con­sti­tu­tion it­self, which de­clares that the “State shall pro­tect and pro­mote the right to health of the peo­ple...”

“Hindi pa ba ob­vi­ous?” says Dr. An­thony Dans, a pul­mo­nolo­gist and pro­fes­sor at the UP Col­lege of Medicine, “The smok­ing ban is im­ple­mented to pro­tect peo­ple.”

Dr. Dans says there are 46 life-threat­en­ing dis­eases re­lated to smok­ing, among them chronic kid­ney dis­eases, pneu­mo­nia, heart dis­eases, stroke, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, and chronic ob­struc­tive lung dis­eases. “Hindi lang ‘yung smoker who is pro­tected. Ang

ma­g­a­nda pa roon, pati ‘yung pas­sive smok­ers are pro­tected. Sila ‘yung mga hindi na­man nanini­gar­i­lyo. Hindi na­man

nila choice mani­gar­i­lyo and yet they’re ex­posed to those 46 dis­eases kasi peo­ple be­side them smoke.”

Dr. Dans is backed by im­por­tant data. Ac­cord­ing to the Philip­pine Can­cer So­ci­ety, it is es­ti­mated that around 3,000 non-smok­ing Filipino adults die ev­ery year be­cause of lung can­cer, which they may have got­ten from in­hal­ing sec­ond­hand smoke. On the other hand, fig­ures from the Depart­ment of Health show that an es­ti­mated 71,850 Filipinos (or eight peo­ple ev­ery hour) are killed by to­bac­core­lated dis­eases ev­ery year. The DOH also re­ports that dis­eases from smok­ing costs the Philip­pine econ­omy more than P188 bil­lion) in health care costs and pro­duc­tiv­ity losses ev­ery year. (See panel for other sta­tis­tics)

But Atty. Jose An­gelo David, a con­sti­tu­tional law pro­fes­sor at San Beda Col­lege of Law, makes it clear that EO 26 does not stop any­body from smok­ing. In fact, David notes that the “choice to smoke” is in­deed sub­sumed un­der a per­son’s “right to lib­erty” as guar­an­teed un­der Ar­ti­cle III, Sec­tion 1 of the 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion, which reads: “No per­son shall be de­prived of life, lib­erty, or prop­erty with­out due process of law, nor shall any per­son be de­nied the equal pro­tec­tion of the laws.” The Supreme Court has de­scribed this “right to lib­erty” as the “op­por­tu­nity to do those things which are or­di­nar­ily done by free men.”

‘Pak­i­taan mo ako ng isang Tao, isa lang, na sumama ang ugali o nag­ing Bay­olente kakasi­gar­i­lyo. sig­uro ka­pag hindi mo Bini­gyan ng sigar­i­lyo, ayan magig­ing Bay­olente sila. BUT sabi­hin mong na­so­bra­han sa yosi, nag­wala?! you’ve never heard any­thing like That.’

“The sen­ti­ment of smok­ers is un­der­stand­able. There is no deny­ing that the Clean Air Act of 1999, the To­bacco Reg­u­la­tion Act of 2003, and EO 26 do re­strict, to some ex­tent, do re­strict the right and lib­erty of in­di­vid­u­als to choose whether or not to smoke,” Atty. David says. “But these restric­tions, how­ever, are not un­rea­son­able. In the Philip­pine Con­sti­tu­tion, for as long as a govern­ment act or reg­u­la­tion is not un­rea­son­able, it will not be struck down as ‘un­con­sti­tu­tional’ and it is not con­sid­ered in vi­o­la­tion of a per­son’s rights.”

Where is the des­ig­nated Smok­ing area?

“Akala ba nila madal­ing taliku­ran ang pagy­oyosi? Af­ter 30 min­utes to an hour, you get edgy, you tap your feet like what I’m do­ing right now,” says an ag­i­tated Perez. We no­tice it. We ask if he’d like to smoke out­side. But then again…

“Where’s the DSA?” Perez asks. “This mall, like most malls, do not pro­vide a DSA. Now tell me, how is that fair? Why are they not here? You can­not ex­pect us to fol­low it and not give us clear pro­vi­sions on where to smoke.

Pun­yeta, that’s kaloko­han.” We’re with Perez in a cof­fee shop at a pop­u­lar mall in Makati. Prior to the smok­ing ban, he says he would al­ways go there to un­wind and have a puff or two with a friend or a new ac­quain­tance. But he says the place, which used to be an old re­li­able, now feels like a trusted friend who’d just turned his back on him.

“One time, I was smok­ing in what I as­sumed to be their DSA dahil open air ta­pos malayo sa crowd. Ta­pos sin­abi­han

ako ng guard, ‘Sir, no smok­ing area ‘to.’ Ang sagot ko, ‘Where’s the Des­ig­nated Smok­ing Area? If you can­not pro­vide me a smok­ing area, hindi mo ako pwe­deng huli­hin for smok­ing. [This mall] is also in vi­o­la­tion of Ex­ec­u­tive Order No. 26… Un­til such time you can pro­duce [a DSA], you can­not en­force it on me or any other smok­ers.”

As you prob­a­bly can tell, Perez wasn’t chill at all then. Still, he wasn’t ex­actly right about the mall vi­o­lat­ing EO 26 for not hav­ing a DSA.

“No, it is not a vi­o­la­tion,” Atty. David says. “The To­bacco Reg­u­la­tion Act of 2003 and EO 26 do not re­quire or oblige pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als or es­tab­lish­ments to pro­vide for a DSA. In fact, some­where in Sec­tion 4 of EO 26, it states that per­sons-in-charge of these es­tab­lish­ments can pro­vide for reg­u­la­tions stricter than those found in the To­bacco Reg­u­la­tion Act of 2003 and EO 26.”

The Order states that a DSA may be in an open space or an en­closed, sep­a­rate space. If it is in an en­closed space,

it has to be cov­ered by a roof and has to have one or more walls that sep­a­rate that room from the rest of the build­ing. This en­closed DSA shall have proper ven­ti­la­tion and no open­ing that will al­low air to es­cape from it to the smoke-free area of the build­ing, ex­cept for a sin­gle-door that is equipped with an au­to­matic door closer.

The Order is also very spe­cific that the DSA shall not be lo­cated in or within 10 me­ters from en­trance and exit points of the es­tab­lish­ment, or any place where peo­ple pass or con­gre­gate. Say, if it is in a mall, it should be clearly sep­a­rated from the bou­tiques and restau­rants where mall-go­ers are in. If it is in a work­place, it should be sep­a­rated from the ac­tual rooms where em­ploy­ees do their job.

Health Sec­re­tary Paulyn Ubial ac­knowl­edges that pro­vid­ing an en­closed DSA may be hard for pri­vate es­tab­lish­ments. “The prob­lem is it’s very dif­fi­cult to com­ply with the Ex­ec­u­tive Order par­tic­u­larly if an es­tab­lish­ment will put up an in­door Des­ig­nated Smok­ing Area. So we’re ad­vis­ing es­tab­lish­ments to ac­tu­ally, hope­fully, just put up an out­door smok­ing area be­cause it’s eas­ier to com­ply with.”

Mean­while, Health Spokesper­son Eric Tayag also re­minds es­tab­lish­ments to put up a “Des­ig­nated Smok­ing Area” sig­nage in their DSAS. This way, smok­ers will not have a hard time look­ing for the ex­act spot where they are al­lowed to light up a cig­a­rette. There should also be vis­i­ble graphic health warn­ings on the ill-ef­fects of smok­ing as well as pro­hi­bi­tion on the en­try of mi­nors in ev­ery DSA.

While EO 26 clearly states that we can­not smoke in an en­closed public place, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late that we can smoke in an open public place. “The en­closed char­ac­ter of a build­ing or con­veyance shall at­tach to all its ar­eas, in­clud­ing its open spa­ces,” clar­i­fies Atty. David. “For ex­am­ple, if there is an open space in a mall, smok­ing is still not al­lowed in that open space un­less it has been des­ig­nated as a smok­ing area.”

In other words, we shouldn’t take “open space” in its lit­eral sense. “A smoker should be wary of the term as it is de­fined un­der the law, oth­er­wise, he or she can be held crim­i­nally li­able,” Atty. David says,

So where the heck can smok­ers light up a cig­a­rette now when they hap­pen to be in, say, a mall, and there is no DSA around?

Un­for­tu­nately, un­til and un­less the man­age­ment of the pri­vate es­tab­lish­ment de­cides to pro­vide a DSA in their premises, smok­ers will have no spe­cific place to smoke. ”They can try to ap­proach the man­age­ment and pres­sure them to es­tab­lish DSAS but be­yond that, it ap­pears they have no le­gal rem­edy,” Atty. David says.

how to quit?

“Ang hindi nai­intindi­han ng mga tao is that cig­a­rette use is a dis­ease. Hindi siya free choice ng tao. Nung sin­im­u­lan nila ang panini­gar­i­lyo, the chem­i­cals in it made them ad­dicted to it. Hindi niya na ngayon mahinto kasi mag­wi­with­drawal symp­toms ‘yan. So they are vic­tims. Hindi sila masasamang tao, kaya hindi ko makuhang ma­g­a­lit sa mga smoker. Kailan­gan maintindi­han natin sila,” Dr. Dans says.

Sec­re­tary Ubial says that the in­ten­tion of the ban is re­ally to re­duce the num­ber of smok­ers in the Philip­pines. “Our pro­jec­tion is in the next five years, we would have re­duced the smok­ing preva­lence in this coun­try by eight per­cent. More or less, that’s 1.5 mil­lion Filipinos who will stop smok­ing or will not start smok­ing.”

Perez knows this, sure. “I have thought of quit­ting but I have been un­suc­cess­ful at quit­ting. The long­est pe­riod that I didn’t smoke was three months,” he con­fesses. “And it drove me nuts. It drove me in­sane. It drove me men­tal. My fam­ily was notic­ing na ang sama ng ugali ko. Iri­ta­ble ako. I blow up at the slight­est agitation.”

Rea­son why you’d have to un­der­stand where he is com­ing from when he says the smok­ing ban is un­fair. He has a word about the smok­ing ban be­ing a health con­cern: “A lot can be said about junk food. A lot can be said about sweets. A lot can be said about cof­fee. A lot can be said about fast­food and yet a pop­u­lar brand opened its 1,000th branch,” Perez re­torts. “So stop say­ing that the smok­ing ban is con­cerned about our health. That ar­gu­ment will not fly with me at all.”

And a word about the stigma: “Saan ka nakakita ng tao na nag­ing bay­olente kakayosi? Na­bangga kakayosi?” he

says. “Pak­i­taan mo ako ng isang tao, isa lang, na sumama ang ugali o nag­ing bay­olente kakasi­gar­i­lyo. Sig­uro ka­pag hindi mo bini­gyan ng sigar­i­lyo, ayan magig­ing bay­olente sila. But sabi­hin mong na­so­bra­han sa yosi, nag­wala?! You’ve never heard any­thing like that.” His prin­ci­ple, in a line: “Smok­ers know that smok­ing is dan­ger­ous. We’re not id­iots.” End of ar­gu­ment.

images Cour­tesy of getty images for il­lus­tra­tive Pur­poses only

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