Palace won't stop Noynoy from smoking

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SMOKING is a personal prerogative, reasoned Malacañang in saying that it would not attempt to ask President-apparent Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to quit such habit.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Rogelio Peyuan said although Aquino's unhealthy practice contradicts the government’s anti-smoking campaign, they have no power to compel the senator to stop smoking.

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“Ito ay isang patuloy na kampanya na iiwanan ng kasalukuyang administrasyon at ipapaubaya natin sa susunod na administrasyon kung paano nila ikukumpara at paano nila mapipigilan," he said.

Despite calls to quit, Aquino earlier said that he cannot stop smoking because it is his way of releasing stress and tension brought about by his job.

Aquino admitted that he could consume one to three packs of cigarettes a day.

In a separate interview, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral noted that it would be a big sacrifice and achievement for Aquino if he quits smoking considering the difficulty of nicotine withdrawal.

“That is a form of addiction. Nicotine is one of the strongest addicting substances that man can consume,” she explained, cautioning Aquino of his health considering that he will lead the country for the next six years.

“We are hoping that he would heed the advice of physicians because smoking is bad for the health not just of the person but of the people around you,” she said.

Cabral meanwhile sees a problem on the anti-smoking drive of Aquino’s administration if he continues to smoke.

“We would not have a very good supporter of anti-smoking activities. So it would be a big sacrifice that he might consider making with the national health program.”

Education Secretary Mona Valisno also would not want to coerce Aquino to quit his habit, but noted the administration’s no smoking policy in every school.

Valisno said that whatever is the policy of schools may not be applicable to the case of Aquino and the latter should be respected about his decision.

“The decision is the president's decision. He can decide for himself when is the right time to stop smoking,” she said.

Anti-smoking laws

As this developed, re-elected Senator Pia Cayetano advised President-apparent Aquino to push for stricter implementation of anti-smoking laws and slowly try to kick off the habit.

"While it is understandably difficult for a smoker to quit, Aquino can still make a difference by pushing for anti-smoking laws,” she said.

She noted that the next administration should strictly enforce Republic Act 9211, or the Tobacco Regulation Law, citing the success of anti-smoking ordinances in Davao City and Puerto Princesa City.

Cayetano, author of a bill requiring graphic health warning signs on cigarette labels, said she would re-file the bill in the 15th Congress amid intense lobbying of the tobacco industry to block to the passage of the proposed measure.

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has issued Administrative Order 2010-013 that would mandate the printing of graphic health warning signs on all cigarette packs circulating in the market.

Cabral, former President Fidel Ramos, and former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan have also called on Aquino to quit, with Tan asking him to slow down on his first 100 days in Malacanang.

On Monday, Aquino said he would not quit yet, calling the growing clamor for him to cut down on smokes as an “unnecessary pressure.”

Wrong directive

A lawmaker from the tobacco-producing province of Ilocos Sur meanwhile scored Cabral for issuing the administrative order, saying the measure was repetitive.

Deputy Speaker for Luzon Eric Singson said that Tobacco Regulation Act (RA 9211) has already mandated the use of textual warnings on cigarette packaging.

"Section 13 of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 expressly provides that no other printed warnings, except the health warning shall be placed on cigarette packages," Singson said.

"In fact, we even provided penal provisions for non-compliance with RA 9211 such that cigarette manufacturers and importers who will not comply with the requirement under Section 13 can be subjected to fines and imprisonment," he added.

Singson said that Cabral might have been given a wrong legal advice with regards to the issuance of the directive.

"One cannot amend an Act of Congress by a mere Administrative Order. Whoever gave her this bum advice should be fired immediately for exposing his Secretary to ridicule," he said.

RA 9211 was passed by Congress in 2003 while the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was ratified by the Senate in 2005. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Palace wont stop noynoy smoking

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