Public health advocates bat for wider smoke and vape-free spaces by prohibiting the establishment of Designated Smoking and Vaping Areas (DSVAs) to further protect the public, particularly, children from secondhand smoke, in time for the celebration of National Lung Month this August.
HealthJustice, and its partner organizations, stressed that a law mandating a 100% smoke and vape-free environment in indoor public places, workplaces, outdoor public places and public transportation will keep everyone, and the most vulnerable population—children and the elderly—safe from respiratory diseases and other diseases associated with tobacco use.
Our current laws, which include Executive Order 106 and Republic Act No. 11900 or the Vape Law, prohibits the use of tobacco products, like cigarettes and vapes, only in indoor public spaces or conveyances. However, the establishment of Designated Smoking and Vaping Areas (DSVAs) in these places are allowed in our laws, thereby weakening the protection afforded to the public from harmful exposure to tobacco products.
“We should adopt strict and comprehensive smoke and vape-free legislation in the Philippines. That’s to curb the global trend of tobacco and nicotine addiction. We should then monitor and ensure its enforcement to effectively protect our youth from the dangers of tobacco products,” said Atty. Benedict G. Nisperos, legal consultant of HealthJustice.
“If our laws are revised to remove the establishment of smoking and vaping areas in public areas, then our children are assured that the public places they go to are safe from harmful effects of tobacco. We should also ban online sales and flavors of these substances. With policies like these, we discourage young people from trying to use tobacco products,” Atty. Nisperos added.
Meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that children exposed to secondhand smoke commonly exhibit wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. They also have increased risk for acute respiratory infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, frequent and severe asthma, and slowed lung growth.
“Our children’s lungs are still developing, and exposure to chemicals from tobacco products weaken their development. We can take simple steps to protect our children from these harmful substances like making sure no one lights a cigarette or vapes around them, at home, or in one’s car. It does not cost anything. On the contrary, it saves a lot of money in terms of prevented diseases and harms. Our government can help through the adoption of more stringent regulation in the use of cigarettes, vapes, and heated tobacco products,” said Dr. Riz Gonzales, Chairperson of the Philippine Pediatric Society.
The 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey reported that 29.3% of Filipino adolescents ages 13 to 15 were exposed to secondhand smoke at home and 41.7% of them while in enclosed public spaces.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.3 million deaths yearly are attributed to secondhand smoke, where about 51,000 are children and adolescents under 20 years old, and 47,000 of them are younger than age 5, based on the 2019 Global Burden of Disease.
“Our children have the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, and this includes clean air free from second-hand smoke or any form of vapor or aerosol from tobacco products. Let’s protect children from respiratory infections and diseases linked to the use of these harmful products. We have to keep pushing for more effective national policies that help guarantee smoke and vape-free spaces for our youth,” added Mr. Rom Dongeto, convener of Child Rights Network.
The recently released WHO Report on the global tobacco epidemic revealed that as of 2022, 5.6 billion people or 71% of the world’s population is now protected by at least one tobacco control policy, which grew five times more than 15 years ago. While, almost 2.1 billion people living in 74 countries are now covered by complete smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport.
However, the Philippines, as a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), has a long way to go at achieving the best practices for a smoke-free environment.