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.