Unholy smokes

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Friday, August 8, 2014


WHAT perfect timing. I just finished reading John Grisham's "The Runaway Jury" when I read on the local news that Mayor Monico Puentevella requested for the strict implementation of the Anti-Smoking Ordinance.

Uhh, okay. FYI to the Mayor. The country has long enacted Republic Act No. 9211, aka the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, an act regulating the packaging, use, sale, distribution and advertisement of tobacco products.

In other words, anti-smoking is no longer just an ordinance, it's a national law, passed way back in 2003. Under R.A. 9211, smoking shall be absolutely prohibited in public places, that is, those enclosed or confined areas of all hospitals, medical clinics, schools, public transportation terminals and offices, and building such as private and public offices, recreational places, shopping malls, movie houses, hotels, restaurants, and the like. May I add, to Bacolod's Hall of Justice where laws are supposedly enforced?

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To be more specific, the ban includes the following:

* Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for persons under 18 years old;

* Locations in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials. There are some fool drivers who smoke in gas stations.

* Public conveyances and public facilities, including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas.

* Food preparation areas. Food preparation areas shall include areas where food or beverage is actually manufactured or prepared.

My understanding is that food preparation areas include coffee shops, often a den where nicotine and caffeine brew a deadly cocktail of poison.

Mayor Puentevella urged that the ordinance be implemented not only in City Hall, but also in public utility vehicles, commercial establishments, schools and other institutions. Urged is not the right choice of word; enforcement is. Urged is like people have a choice to smoke or not to smoke in these areas.

The Mayor's insistence on enforcing the ordinance implies that R.A. 9211 is haphazardly, if at all, being implemented in the City of Smiles.

Further, the City Hall press release insisted on a more comprehensive campaign to battle smoking, lung cancer and diabetes.

Smoking is optional, as Big Tobacco insists in its defense in court and clearly explained in the Grisham novel "The Runaway Jury." Meaning, smokers should be making an informed choice to choose their poison. It's the user's choice whether it be hard liquor, softdrinks, or junk food.

The argument for the smoking ban, however, is that breathing is not a free choice. We all have to inhale or exhale, whether we smoke or not. And I have been victimized many times over from smokers who insensitively exhale smoke in my presence.

Worldwide, smoking bans protect breathing non-smokers like me from the effects of second-hand smoke that raises the risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and other diseases. There you go.

In addition, the bans - and the sin tax - can reduce health care costs, improve work productivity, and lower the overall cost of labor. In the US state of Indiana, the economic development agency included in its 2006 plan for acceleration of economic growth encouragement for cities and towns to adopt local smoking bans as a means of promoting job growth in communities.

But go ahead, Mayor. Go for the enforcement of the ordinance. And R.A. 9211.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 08, 2014.

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