Per the recent 2017 Third Quarter Naga City Poverty and Governance Public Opinion Poll conducted and published by Ateneo de Naga University’s Social Science Research Center, 74.2% of those who are aware of the city’s ordinance prohibiting smoking in public places commented that said policy is not being strictly followed in Naga. Majority of them suggested that stricter implementation of said local law be done.
By stroke of fate, on the very same day the aforesaid opinion was released to the media – 26 September 2017 - the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Naga, thru sponsorship of Councilor Jose Rañola, a doctor by profession, enacted Ordinance No. 2017-066 (Smoke-Free Ordinance of the City of Naga). Perhaps, shared sentiments of the people and their officials, as well as constant dialogue, have paved the way for this coincidence.
In the newly-passed Smoke-Free Ordinance of the City of Naga, we aim to intensify our campaign against smoking in public places thru the creation of a Smoke-Free Task Force that will aid in the implementation of said local law, conduct information dissemination programs, train enforcement officers, as well as receive, review and process complaints of violations. This task force shall be chaired by the City Health Officer, co-chaired by the City Health Education and Promotion Officer, and composed of the city’s Legal Officer, Information Officer, Building Officer, Business Permits and License Officer and representatives from the Naga City People’s Council and the Naga City Police Office.
Further, Ordinance No. 2017-066 mandates that, ninety (90) days after its effectivity, an inspection team shall, in a regular basis, visit at least once a month business establishments within the city and determine their compliance with said local law. Those found non-compliant shall be issued a Citation Ticket which, upon failure of the enterprise to rectify its error, may be a ground for suspension of business license.
Also, managers, office heads or public utility drivers who allow or condone any person to smoke in public places shall be penalized with fines (P2,000 for first offense; P3,000 for second office; P4,000, third offense; and P5,000 fine and cancellation of business permit for subsequent offenses). Persons who will smoke in public places will be sanctioned with fines (P1,500 for first offense; P2,500, second offense; P3,5000, third offense; and P5,000, subsequent offenses) and possible imprisonment.
Aside from a campaign for prohibition, the city government is equally earnest on its crusade for rehabilitation. Under Ordinance No. 2017-066, a Local Cessation Program has been established to provide help to those who have expressed willingness to quit smoking and/or have violated our ordinance so as to prevent further violation and introduce a healthier lifestyle to our constituents.
Prevention is always better than cure, however. Hence, in our newly-enacted ordinance, we have already provided a policy prohibiting advertisements of tobacco products outside of the premises of point-of-sale retail establishments, as well as within 100 meters from perimeter of a school, public playground or other facilities frequented by minors. Selling to minors is strictly not allowed, even if the child was only instructed to buy for his parent or any adult. In fact, ordering, instructing or compelling a minor to use, light up, buy, sell, distribute, deliver, advertise or just promote tobacco products is now declared prohibited.
There is a need to be aggressive on regulating smoking in the city. Smoking is a major cause of serious diseases and, much worse, second-hand smokers are the ones who are more at risk of acquiring such illnesses than the actual smokers themselves. Indeed, our policies may infringe upon a man’s right to enjoy a commodity and a firm’s right to commerce. But, as the maxim goes jura publica anteferenda privatis juribus (public rights are to be preferred to private rights).