13 May 2006

R.A. 9211: Excellent on Paper Only

In one of the sessions I attended last week (during the 36th PCP Convention), the problem of 'cancer epidemic' was discussed. Lung cancer and breast cancer were two of the most frequently mentioned type of cancers, and the speaker lamented that a significant curbing of the epidemic can be possible only if the authorities concerned will enforce R.A. 9211.

Republic Act 9211 (R.A. 9211) is also known as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003. It was signed into law last June 2003 to be in sync with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC). Honestly, and please forgive my ignorance (the law is my friend Sassy's forte), I did not know such a law existed. I heard before there was a no-smoking rule in Makati City; I did not know it was supposed to be a no-smoking rule nationwide!

Why? Because my eyes and experience tell otherwise.

In order to promote a so-called "healthful environment," as it mentions on Section 3 of its full text, it specifically prohibits smoking in public places like schools, elevators, staircases, hospitals, airports, ship terminals, train stations, public transports, and restaurants. Smoking in said areas is permitted only in sections designated as smoking areas. Penalties (section 32 of the law) depend on how frequent the offense is made and ranges from monetary fines (P500 to P10,000) to cancellation of business permits.

How many have been caught and penalized? How many business permits have been cancelled since this law was signed?

Nothing much is heard in the tri-media since 2003. And if you go around Manila and the provinces, you would still see a lot people smoking in the prohibited places mentioned. No one treats this law seriously. Policemen smoke. Soldiers smoke. News reporters and the news editors smoke. Lawyers and judges smoke. Drivers smoke. Office employees smoke. Showbiz personalities smoke. Politicians smoke. Former presidents smoke. Heck, even doctors and nurses smoke! Tell me, who is left to enforce this law?

Recently, there is news that "nicotine and carcinogenic compounds have been found in babies as young as three months," proving that their exposure to secondhand smoke either from parents or any person around them can be harmful. Will this alarm smokers? Probably. But will it stop them from smoking?

Let's not forget that smoking is an addiction. It will take serious political will and dedication to have this law properly followed and enforced. And if everyone smokes and is addicted to it, R.A. 9211 is certainly an excellent law on paper only.

Sorry for the long absence.
A man's work is never done.

11 reactions:

ipanema said...

Why, am equally surprised that we have such law! I thought only the UK has imposed such laws earlier this year, to the mumblings of her citizens. It's appalling that people take no heed, what with its implication to health and the environment.

According to an article, lung cancer patients who have never smoke have
better survival rates
and respond better to chemotherapy.

If the government is serious in implementing this, they should start in their very own offices. Policemen themselves are like chimneys. Smoking is an everyday occurence in public.

Moreover, I think people blatantly ignored RA 211 due to weak implementation. The government should think of ways on how to penalise people. It is to get away with monetary fines. How about a week in jail? Duration varies on the frequency of offense made. With that, they have a police record now.

My thoughts. Welcome back doc! Thought for a while, Mr. Uribe pinned you down. :)

bayibhyap said...

I was once in a lift where a man was holding a lighted cigarette. There was a sign on the lift wall that indicated NO SMOKING.

A fellow lift passenger politely but firmly told the man not to smoke and pointed to the sign. All the others turned and looked at him in obvious support for the lady. The man apologized and quickly put out the lighted cigarette.

The public as a whole can take the lead in enforcing laws on no smoking zones. Of course, hotel employees, cinema employees, etc. all play a crucial role too. By and by, the smokers will come to terms with the law. It does help if the authorities come up with strict enforcement and draconian punishments that are meted out swiftly. Just give a ticket to an offender on the spot and the minimum fine is, say, 1,000 pesos and you will see a definite improvement in a week or two!

In Subic, you stop at a STOP sign when you are driving a car, even if you don't see any traffic. If you jst slow down and then speed up, you will be hit with a traffic violation ticket.

Even wonder why Subic is so clean? You get a ticket if you litter! Strict enforce ment is a big help and by far the most effective measure.

Miguel said...

Perhaps another approach could be to take a social tack, instead of legal one.

Perhaps it would be more effective to make people want to stop, instead of just stopping them with gun or sword.

I have only half-remembered stats in my head, but I believe information campaigns have actually lowered smoking rates in countries where they've been implemented. Younger people, in particular, are learning. (Not China though. Lots of young men smoke like haystacks in China.)

When people know better, they do better.

ipanema said...

Bayi, Subic used to be a military base. It's run that way. One can't simply enter without due clearance.

bayibhyap said...

But it works, ipanema. I am not for a totalitarian style of leadeship but what if the law is taken lightly? In Singapore you are fined on the spot if you litter. It is a clean city because the law enforcers mean business.

ipanema said...

That's true Bayi. Sometimes you need a strong hand to handle people. I admire what Lee Kwan Yew had done to the tiny island state, though sometimes criticized. There are times you need an iron hand. From chewing gum, press and the internet which is regulated, still they are very progressive. There's a need to discipline people.

There are times it's sad when unconsciously one will compare the state we are in to other countries.

Dr. Emer said...

IPANEMA: *LOL* No, Mr Uribe didn't "pin me down."

Other than blaming the government (we've been doing that for years to no avail), I think people (read:smokers) should do their part also. But in our land where a simple traffic sign like NO LEFT TURN is ignored, I think NO SMOKING has a long, long way to go. In my assessment, the only thing that will work here is banning cigarette sales.

BAYI: Yes...tougher laws for tough law-breakers might do the trick. But NO SMOKING is a tricky law because most of the law enforcers smoke, too.

MIGUEL: "When people know better, they do better."

...except in the Philippines, Miguel.


ipanema said...

There had been attempts to curb/ban sales of cigarettes in the past but to no avail.

Are you familiar with Aurora Tabako? That ubiquitous cigarettee of women stuffed backwards in their mouth ages ago, circa Sampaguita pictures? :) I'm not sure but old women used to say, it's better than the cigarettes we have now. Stronger. Ever wonder why the lighted side is in the mouth and they never burn their tongues? :)

Miguel said...

MIGUEL: "When people know better, they do better."

Dr.EMER: "...except in the Philippines, Miguel.


Haha, we can't give up, Doc, (I good-naturedly remark). I have to believe that we Pinoys are gonna get it right someday, even if it has to be our children and not us who do it. Cheers

Anonymous said...

Yes.. I'm also very much surprised we have such law enacted here ebcause lots of people everywhere at all times are smoking! All i can say is that smokers are stupid! I hate to smell cigars coz right there and then, my nose discharges. Hahaha.. I'm allergic to it! Smoking should be banned but I think this is really to no avail. Almost all Law enforcers are smoking, even nurses and doctors!

rax said...

there's now an online petition for graphic health warnings on cigarette packs. RA 9211 may be just paper but the subsequently ratified FCTC should serve to be a backing force to RA 9211. Not all hope is lost for our country. What we do need is for people to help support and enforce this. There are now several lawsuits against violators of the outdoor ad ban of RA9211. So movement is slow, but the law is slowly changing into something alive and not just mere paper. To move further we need everyone to help.

Sign the online petition. http://www.petitiononline.com/ghwphil/