THE much-awaited Executive Order (EO) banning smoking in all public places nationwide is already at the presidential table and is "literally" just waiting for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a press briefing, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial disclosed that she has been told by the Palace that the draft smoke-free EO is already at the table of Duterte.
"Everything has been done already and it is now in the table of the President for signing. We were told that the President is set to sign it after his trips abroad," said Ubial.
Last week, she bared that they already expect the EO to be signed by Duterte "within the week."
The DOH head said they firmly believe that the smoke-free EO would be a big help in bringing down the number of people with smoking-related illnesses.
"The DOH stands firmly behind all initiatives that impose smoking bans in public places, where non-smokers become unwillingly exposed to second-hand smoke," said Ubial.
The Health chief said the recent result of the Philippines' Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) make them all the more determined to impose more laws that will restrict smoking prevalence.
"There are still too many Filipinos who shell out substantial amount of their monthly income to support their smoking habit. There is still much to be done in our country's efforts to limit and curtail tobacco use, especially for the economically-disadvantaged countrymen," said Ubial.
Based on the GATS - Philippines 2015, the number of Filipino smokers have gone down to only 15.9 million in 2015 from 17 million in 2009.
"One million Filipinos have quit tobacco use - the biggest decline we have seen in Philippine history, and we can do more to stop the suffering caused by this epidemic," said Ubial.
She said the reduction in the number of smokers means that there are at least a million Filipinos that are now at lower risk from cancer, heart ailments, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Aside from the number of smokers, victims of second-hand smoke have also gone down significantly in homes, from 54 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2015; and in the workplaces, from 32 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2015.
However, the survey revealed that exposure to second-hand smoke remains high in bars and nightclubs, with 86 percent; and in restaurants, with 33 percent.
Lastly, the GATS 2015 showed that the interest in the public's interest in quitting smoking has gone up from 60 percent in 2009 to 76 percent in 2015.
"Three out of four smokers in the Philippines wants to quit and that families and health providers should support those who want to get out of nicotine addiction," said Ubial.
Ubial attributed the decrease in the number of smokers as well as exposures to second-hand smoke to the increase in the prices of tobacco products brought about by the Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012, among others.
She said that the sin tax law has resulted to cigarette products becoming more inaccessible to the public, especially to the poor and the youth.
"We look forward to more positive outcomes from Republic Act 10351 in the long run," said Ubial.
To note, the GATS is the global standard protocol in monitoring adult tobacco use and was first conducted in the Philippines in 2009, and again in 2015.
A total of 11,644 were interviewed for the GATS 2015 with a response rate of 92 percent. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)