(Adds details on market, quote)
By Kanupriya Kapoor and Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA Oct 12 Philippine President Rodrigo
Duterte is set to sign a regulation this month banning smoking
in public across Southeast Asia's second-most populous country,
rolling out among the toughest anti-tobacco laws in the region.
Public health campaigners who have long battled against the
country's hefty tobacco lobby welcomed the push to end smoking
in public places and said they believed Duterte, with his tough
anti-vice record, was the man to do it.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial told Reuters on
Tuesday she hoped the president would sign the ban, which
expands the definition of public places, into law before the end
of October and that it would come into effect next month.
She was quoted by newspapers as saying that no smoking would
be allowed in public places, whether indoor or outdoor.
"Parks, bus stations, and even in vehicles. All these are
considered public places," she said, according to media. She
later clarified the law would apply only to public vehicles.
Designated smoking areas will be set up, at least 10 meters
(33 feet) outside buildings, according to a draft of the
executive order seen by Reuters.
Around 17 million people, or nearly a third of the adult
population, smoke in the Philippines, according to a 2014 report
by Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, - the second highest
in the region after Indonesia. Nearly half of all Filipino men
and 9 percent of women smoke and experts say the habit costs the
economy nearly $4 billion in healthcare and productivity losses
Sandra Mullin of Vital Strategies, a global public health
organisation, said smoke-free laws reduced smoking prevalence by
4 percent, if fully comprehensive.
Marlboro owner Philip Morris International, estimated
to hold more than 70 percent of the Philippines market through
its joint venture with Fortune Tobacco, will be among the
international producers most affected by the proposed ban.
In 2015, the Philippines accounted for almost 1 in every 13
cigarettes sold by Philip Morris globally, though analysts
estimated it was worth a far smaller 2 percent of profit.
A spokeswoman for Philip Morris International referred
queries on the proposed ban to the Philippine Tobacco Institute,
which represents tobacco interests in the country.
A spokesman for the institute said he had no immediate
comment on the proposed ban.
The proposed smoking ban replicates on a national level an
existing law in Davao City, where Duterte ruled as mayor for 22
years until his rise to the presidency earlier this year.
Penalties for breaking the anti-smoking law in Davao can
include a 5,000 Philippine peso ($103) fine or four months in
When Duterte was in Davao, he once personally forced a man
to stub out his cigarette and eat it after he refused to stop
smoking in a restaurant, according to media reports.
A government spokesman declined to comment on the incident
"Certainly in Davao, the sentiment and business
establishments support a smoke-free Davao. The president sees it
as something that's not ideal for health...and this is part of
the public well-being," Ernesto Abella said.
Duterte also rolled out a number of other strict rules in
the city of 1.5 million during his term as mayor, including
banning late-night drinking and karaoke, and a 10 p.m. curfew
for school children. He also oversaw a severe crackdown on
narcotics and crime in the city, earning him the nickname "The
The 71-year old won the presidency on a promise of widening
that crackdown throughout the country of 100 million. Over 3,600
people, mostly small-time drug user and dealers, have died in
police operations and alleged vigilante killings since he took
office in June.
Anti-tobacco activists said Duterte's reputation meant the
nationwide smoking ban would be implemented.
"This is effectively a scaling up of the Davao City plan,"
said Ralph Degollacion of Health Justice Philippines, a local
"We know his track record...and given the political will in
his government, we're confident that in terms of implementation
he will really push it," he said.
When asked if the ban could extend to alcohol and gambling -
both multi-million dollar industries - government spokesman
Abella said there were no such plans in the offing and that bars
and casinos were continuing to operate normally.
BIG TOBACCO UNDER PRESSURE
The nationwide ban is set to be among the strictest
no-smoking laws in Southeast Asia. The region is home to nearly
10 percent of the world's smokers and while most countries have
partial smoking bans in place, enforcement is often lax.
The Philippines ban will also cover 'vaping' or the use of
For tobacco companies, already under pressure from tobacco
tax hikes under the previous government, that's bad news.
"A smoking ban could see any further recovery in the sales
dynamics in the market stall," Owen Bennett, equity analyst at
Jefferies International, said in a note.
Duterte's government has also proposed increasing taxes on
cigarettes and other tobacco products, Finance Undersecretary
Karl Kenneth Chua said. The tax would build on a landmark
tax-hike imposed by the previous government, but Chua did not
elaborate on how much additional revenue the government was
expected to net.
($1 = 48.2800 Philippine pesos)
(Additional reporting by Clara Ferreira Marques in Singapore
and Martine Geller in London; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)