Issue of December 31, 2017
Mt. Province

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Smoke–free campaign in city gains ground in 2017
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

The year 2017 has marked the start of a smaller world for smoke puffers and good for smoke-free crusaders in Baguio City.

With the approval and implementation of a new ordinance expanding the coverage of the policy on the sale and use of cigarettes in the city, the city government through the City Health and Services Office is yet eyeing for stricter rules to limit the sale, promotion, and access to tobacco products, as it rides high on the report of a slight decrease in smoking prevalence in the city in 2016.

It is now also embarking on a shift in strategies in encouraging the public to stop smoking by choosing a friendly, lighter push towards a healthier lifestyle sans cigarettes.

Dr. Donabel Tubera, CHSO Epidemiology Department head, said since the city council’s passage of the Smoke-free Ordinance last May, the office has started orienting punong barangays, various organizations and concerned sectors, and national line agencies in the city on the ordinance’s contents for their corresponding action and compliance.

Among the provisions of the new ordinance is the ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorships of the activities related to smoking, which expands the coverage of the previous Ordinance 8-2008. Banning the sale of tobacco products in areas provided in the Child Welfare Act has also expanded from within 100 meters from schools to 100 meters to any center of youth activity.

The new ordinance now also provides for a smoke cessation program aimed at helping smokers quit, through counselling and interventions.

The ordinance is now also implemented by more enforcers, with Mayor Mauricio Domogan’s issuance of an administrative order deputizing trained personnel from the Public Order and Safety Division, park security guards, and members of the Pony Boys group to apprehend and issue citation tickets to violators.

Tubera said the city was also supportive of moves to include tobacco products in the list of commodities to be slapped with higher duties like fuel, cars, coal, and sugar-sweetened drinks, through the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion or Train, which is the first tranche of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program of the Duterte Administration.

“We want cigarettes to become more expensive, aside from the imposition of sin taxes, so that young and poor Filipinos’ access to tobacco products would be more difficult,” Tubera said during the recent episode of the Talakayan sa Environment Code hosted by the Baguio Regreening Movement.

The Smoke-free Baguio campaign further snowballed towards the end of the year with its launching last November in line with the Smoke-free Philippines Caravan, which kicked off in the city.

The one-week activity took off with Baguio being part of the 10-city caravan, composed of cities in the country with strict no-smoking policies, which ended in Davao City last Dec. 15.

This time, Tubera said the challenge is on making the public informed on the existence of the ordinance.

“This year we targeted on information dissemination. Some of those accosted would often claim they were not aware of the ordinance. We could only do much with our flyers, so we need the help of the mass media in informing the public of the content of the ordinance because a flyer can reach a hundred persons, but mass media can reach thousands,” the medical officer said.

She said they have also embarked on a paradigm shift in their strategies towards a smoke-free city. Instead of telling the public the do’s and don’t’s in smoking, Tubera said they are now planning ways to make “no-smoking is fun in Baguio” and to make them realize that the Smoke-free Ordinance is all about loving the city, their health and life, and that of the next generation.

“We are innovating our ways, since we are targeting mostly millennials. Rules are good, but we want to make it fun this time,” she said.

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