The Department of Health (DOH) expects President Rodrigo Duterte to sign very soon the executive order (EO) on a nationwide ban on smoking in public places.

In a media interview Thursday, Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said she has been told by Palace officials that the EO, which has been at the Office of the President since last week, is already in the final stage of review and is ready for signing.

“We are positive that it will come out anytime soon… Maybe within the week,” Ubial said, adding that she made the follow-up recently.

The revised EO, she said, excludes the use of vapes and electronic cigarettes as they are not provided for in the law.

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The health chief said the President’s instruction was that the EO should be patterned after Davao City’s anti-smoking ordinance.

Under the EO, smokers can only smoke in designated areas where the public could not be exposed to second-hand smoke, she explained.

Ubial pointed out that the EO does not mention any particular penalty, as this will be determined by the local governments, which will be the ones to carry out the order.

Meanwhile, anti-tobacco groups renewed their call for President Duterte to sign the EO as soon as possible or else risk more Filipinos getting sick with smoking-related diseases.

“The clock is ticking and we cannot afford to sit back and wait as new cancer cases are expected to occur in the Philippines if we don’t act now,” New Vois Association of the Philippines president Emer Rojas, a throat cancer survivor, said in a statement.

Rojas, who was once a chain smoker, said having the EO on a smoke-free Philippines will not only save Filipinos against tobacco-induced illnesses but also reduce the prevalence of smoking in the country.

“Strictly implemented smoke-free policies in other countries have proven to be successful in reducing the prevalence of smoking, especially among the youth,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, program director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

President Duterte has long been expected to sign the EO. He however sought more time to study the DOH draft as well as to “measure the resistance” to it. (PNA) CVL/LSJ/EDS

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