Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Declares War on Smoking

By Bryan Le 05/22/17

The controversial leader is set to hand out harsh fines and possibly jail time to citizens who disobey the order.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a message upon his arrival at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on September 30.
Zero tolerance. Wikimedia/PCOO EDP

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is diverting some of his attention from fighting his drug war to waging a war on smoking. 

In line with his presidential campaign promises to purge his country of vice, Duterte has signed an executive order to ban smoking in all public spaces. Anyone caught violating the ban will face up to four months jail time and a fine of about $100 USD.

Duterte’s order also bolsters existing bans on advertisements, sponsorships or promotions of tobacco products with fines worth up to about $8,000 USD, up to three years in jail and even the revocation of business permits.

The Philippines president himself was a heavy smoker until health complications forced him to quit.

Philippine citizens who can’t break the habit and need a smoke break while in public will have to make their way to designated smoking areas, which can only be up to 10 square meters and must be located at least 10 meters from any building entrances or exits. Each city and town will designate its own anti-smoking police task force to enforce this new law. The order also calls for citizens to band together into their own anti-smoking task forces.

Vaping and electronic cigarettes are not exempt from this ban.

Duterte hopes this will curb smoking in his country, where a third of its adult citizens smokes. This number includes half of all Filipino men and 9% of Filipino women. One in every 13 cigarettes sold by cigarette giant Philip Morris was sold in the Philippines in 2015.

Public health advocates welcome Duterte’s new order. Even the Philippine Tobacco Institute (an organization that represents the eight cigarette companies operating in the Philippines) says it agrees with the order in a statement. “We have always supported regulation of public smoking as provided for under the national law including the designation of areas where smoking is allowed,” the statement read.

The ban has already made at least one citizen want to quit smoking for good with its heavy fines and penalties. “I know I can do it. I’m a heavy smoker before, but now I smoke only after meals,” says Jojo Primivida, a courier driver.

Fines and jail time are lenient in comparison to what drug dealers and drug users in the country face. Duterte has explicitly encouraged the execution of drug offenders. His administration considers these deaths to be a necessary cost in their “noble crusade” against drugs. President Duterte also claims that President Donald Trump called him to wish him well in his anti-drug efforts and invited him to the White House.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter