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Philippines' Duterte gets tough on tobacco with ban on smoking in public

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order that bans smoking in all public places in the Philippines, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said on Thursday.

Executive Order 26, which is what was announced on Thursday, not only prohibits smoking in public places but bans the sale of tobacco within 100 meters of schools, playgrounds, or places where children congregate.

It disallows minors to smoke, sell, or buy cigarettes or any other tobacco products.

In October past year, Duterte said the nationwide executive order is patterned after the smoking ban that he imposed when he was mayor of Davao City, his home city in the southern Philippines.

Duterte is a former smoker and has been quite vocal about his stance since quitting decades ago. Individuals caught selling or distributing cigarettes to minors can not use not knowing the real age of the minor as a defense, according to the order.

The EO also prohibits "persons-in-charge" to allow, abet or tolerate smoking in public places.

Smoking is also prohibited in enclosed public places and public conveyances.

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The ban is one of the region's strictest anti-tobacco laws and mimics the 2012 ordinance Duterte created in his hometown of Davao City, Reuters reported.

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Violators of the smoking ban face significant punishment, including up to four months in prison and fines of 5,000 pesos, roughly $100. "They will die of cancer if they continue to mess up with nicotine", Duterte said.

"Scientific evidence has unequivocally established that tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco cause death, disease and disability, lead to devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences, and places burdens on families, on the poor, and on national and local health systems", Duterte said.

Minors are strictly prohibited from entering the DSA or its buffer zone. Only about 9 percent of women in the Philippines smoke. There are eight firms making cigarettes in the Philippines. The report said that only a few governments appropriately tax tobacco products, missing out on a "proven, low-priced measure to curb demand".

In its report, the World Health Organization said higher taxes on tobacco products should accompany anti-smoking laws.

The WHO estimates that the average pack of 20 cigarettes costs nearly 27 pesos in the Philippines, with more than 74 per cent of that figure attributed to taxes.

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