by Anjelica Ibuyan

Malacañang is said to be boiling up an executive order imposing a nationwide ban on smoking, whether in public or private places. The order has been patterned to the smoking ban in Davao, the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President has declared his opposition in smoking even in smoking areas inside buildings since such areas are not closed and the smoke from cigarettes are still inhaled by those who do not smoke. Public health organizations are happy to hear that this executive order will be imposed as soon as the President signs it and believes that because of the iron hand, the order will be effective.

The executive order is a good news to public health. It will lessen the population caused by smoke and minimize the chances of diseases both to smokers and non-smokers. But the problem that the order is facing is that it may affect the economy since the tobacco industry is one of the biggest and most succesful industries in the country.

Next to Singapore, the Philippines has the second highest population of smokers in the region with about 17 million people that smokes, according to Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance. The habit causes productivity losses each year and about $4 billion in healthcare. The tobacco business is already under the waters from tobacco tax hikes imposed by the previous administration and the impending executive order means bad news for them.

Based on the Kentucky Annual Economic Report in 2006, the impact of the smoking ban depends on the population. The higher the population, the more the negative the effect. But the said research also says that aside from the ban, there are a number of factors affecting employment. The over all results of the study suggests that “banning smoking in bars is detrimental to industry employment”. According to the Cancer Council, smoking ban does not lower the patronage for outdoor dining. In fact, it is the opposite. If the smoking ban is implemented, non-smokers will be attracted to venues they would not attend previously. According to a NSW Health survey, 38% of males and 43% of females would go to a venue more often if the smoking ban is implemented while only 6% of males and 5% of females said that they would visit less often.

According to an article of Beaumont Enterprise, the smoking ban is not a punishment but a health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco smoking kills 10 Filipinos every hour due to cancer, stroke, kung and heart diseases. WHO also warns that second-hand smoking can cause thousands of deaths to non-smokers due to the same smoking-related diseases. Studies by the WHO, Department of Health (DOH), University of the Philippines-Manila and the Philippine College of Medical Researchers Foundation have found that the government’s “economic costs, including expenses for health care and costs of productivity losses”, reached up to P461 billion. In the case of implementing a smoking ban, one should not only look at the economical effect but also the reasons for imposing such orders. And the main reason for the impending executive order is not to sabotage the tobacco industry but to create a healthier environment for Filipinos, smoker or non-smoker.