Delivered on May 31, 2017 by Allan Chester Nadate, legal researcher, at Max’s Restaurant, Quezon City Circle
The Philippines celebrates World No Tobacco Day this year in light of the President’s signing of a landmark executive order that reiterates and emphasizes on important truths.
The first of these truths that the President tells us is that the often glossed over statements that “Smoking Kills” and “Secondhand Smoke Kills” are true; that they have been unequivocally established by scientific evidence. No amount of lobbying or claims by the tobacco industry could change these facts.
The second truth that the President tells us is that no one has a right to smoke; that no one has a license to smoke, in as much the same way that no one has a license to kill. There is no right to smoke in as much the same way that the tobacco industry has no vested right to peddle a cheap and widely available product created to destroy lives, because quoting the Executive Order itself, “public health takes precedence over any commercial or business interest.”
This goes to the third truth. That because the right to health is fundamental, every Filipino has the right to breathe clean air: air that is free from cancer-causing chemicals, irritants, and pollution.
This is why the President tells us to join him in spreading another truth—the fourth truth—that designated smoking areas are not mandatory; that designated smoking areas can be completely dispensed with so that smoking is prohibited altogether. Restaurant operators, business owners, and managers of retail establishments can all decide against putting up these designated smoking areas, and in so doing, not abet or tolerate the silent murder of our fellow Filipinos. The truth is: it is our choice to save lives.
The fifth truth that the President tells us is this: smoking is not just a public health problem. Smoking is an economic problem; it is a human development problem; it is a social justice problem.
This is because the multitrillion-peso global tobacco industry has continually targeted the poorest of the poor to ensure that they are addicted, to ensure that they will spend a majority of their income on cigarettes. This is because they have targeted the young, so that they will have new dedicated customers who will replace the customers that they have killed.
And the last truth that the President tells us is that there is more to be done. The issue of implementation emphasizes the need to ensure that the smoke-free policy of Executive Order No. 26 is strengthened at the community level through local ordinances.
Every province, every city, and every municipality should have an anti-smoking task force that will complement police, civil society, and citizens’ efforts.
And to save more lives, we have to revise our laws to put more restrictions on tobacco sale and use. We must, therefore, call upon our lawmakers in Congress to support the President’s campaign of expanding clean air policies in all public places and making more permanent the health promotive policies established by the executive order.
Through the executive order, President Rodrigo Duterte tells us these important truths that must empower us to build a healthier nation.