DAVAO CITY -- The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) named this city on Monday as the first 100 percent smoke-free metropolitan in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region.

Councilor Melchor Quitain and Dr. Jomilyn Villareiz, co-chair of Davao City Anti-Smoking Task Force, received the plaque of recognition for the group’s outstanding contribution to tobacco control in behalf of the City Government of Davao in a ceremony at the SM Lanang Premier SMX Convention Center.

The recognition was given during the three-day regional workshop titled, "Smoke-Free Laws: Strengthening its Enforcing Towards Building Model Smoke-free Cities in the Asean," duly attended by delegates from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Seatca director Bungon Ritthiphakdee, in an interview, said the association wanted to show appreciation to Davao City in terms of "being a model city in implementing law against smoking."

"It's a challenge for other cities. Although they have law same with Davao but their problem is enforcement. They cannot well enforce it," Ritthiphakdee said.

Like in her hometown Thailand, Ritthiphakdee said their country implements a strong anti-smoking policy, but the implementation in public areas like night bars and restaurants remains a challenge.

"The compliance is not so good compared in Davao. I'm impressed even your Casino here is smoke-free," she said.

She said the pressure on other cities must be put on its "enforcement mechanism."

Ritthiphakdee said strong political will, legislative power, mechanism, manpower, and the media are the important elements that the City Government here has effectively exercised.

She also said that some countries follow national regulation on anti-smoking but has no city-level implementation.

"The mechanism in city level is very important," she said.

In Davao City, she said she observed the metropolis has a 100 percent smoke-free in public places following its city ordinance.

"Davao City improves year by year with the commitment given by premise owners, policy makers and officers, and the general public. It is a very good example to other countries," Ritthiphakdee said.

Bent on making the city smoke-free, City Hall added teeth to its policy against smoking with the implementation of City Ordinance 0367-12, otherwise known as the New Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance of Davao City, which started on May 31.

The police authorities have, so far, arrested a total of 977 violators.

Villareiz said the city is taking the lead among other Asean countries in implementing a smoke-free regulation in public places.

"We will share the experiences with them. Medyo mahirap sa ibang country yung implementation nila. But hopefully, maayos nila yung ordinance nila, magkaroon din sila ng strict implementation gaya ng sa atin dito," Villareiz said.

Ritthiphakdee said their campaign against smoking does not only stop in enforcing a 100 percent smoke-free in public places, but also to "stop promotion and implement a marketing ban."

The Seatca, she said, would like to see all the 10 countries in Asean to have a picture warning on each cigarette pack, as it is one of the best strategies they have considered to control people from smoking.

She said four countries are already enforcing it -- Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia.

Vietnam is planning to do the same by the end of 2013, while Indonesia will have it June next year, according to Ritthiphakdee.

"We work together now to make sure the government in Asean countries requires this pictorial warning in cigarette pack. This is the best way to educate the public in the danger of smoking," she said. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)