7,300 apprehended in Iloilo City for smoking
BY RJAY ZURIAGA CASTOR
The Manila Times
I LOILO CITY: More than 7,000 individuals here were apprehended within a six-month period for vaping and smoking in public places. The city’s Regulation Ordinance 2014-527 bans smoking and vaping in public areas and transportation. The Iloilo City Anti-Smoking Task Force (Icast) reported that from January to August 15 this year, the task force and the city police office issued citation tickets to 868 individuals who were caught vaping and 6,410 cigarette smokers. Icast Executive Director Iñigo Garingalao noted that the number of apprehended users of conventional and electronic cigarettes this year so far might surpass the over 10,000 recorded cases in 2022. “It’s on the rise, and if the current trend continues, it will continue to rise significantly,” Garingalao said in a media interview on September 11. The task force had the highest number of apprehended violators in March with 1,422. Garingalao noted that with the task force’s intensified monitoring and operations, violators of the smoking ban stubbornly topping the list are high school students, many of whom are frequently caught smoking outside school grounds. “Youth are naturally inclined to experiment. When you say ‘no,’ they tend to test the boundaries, and if their peer group is experimenting, they will too. In the case of juveniles, it doesn’t help that their environment is permissive when it comes to smoking,” he added. Garingalao stressed that the numbers are alarming because students are not only using traditional cigarettes but are also into vapes and e-cigarettes. The Icast director said that they are also closely working with school heads to monitor the smoking activities of the students both on and off school premises. He said that they are also monitoring “indicia” of cigarette and tobacco companies in local stores. Indicia is offered through sponsorship paintings of stores that depict the trademark or colors of the tobacco company. “Another issue now is the cigarette companies’ promotions in the local stores. From time to time, they engage in these promotions, especially when there are events and upcoming barangay elections,” he added. Garingalao suggested that the medical aspects and enforcement of anti-smoking measures should come in as one to address the behavior, culture and addiction aspects. The Icast director also asked for the help of all officials of the 180 villages in the city to strengthen the campaign against illegal smoking. Iloilo City was one of the first in the country to campaign against vaping even before former president Rodrigo Duterte ordered a total ban on the use and importation of vaping devices or e-cigarettes in the country. The ordinance also penalizes individuals caught smoking in prohibited places with fines ranging from P1,500 to P5,000 and potential imprisonment for repeat offenses. Establishments without anti-smoking signage can face fines of P2,000 up to P5,000, or the cancellation of their business permit on the third offense. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses with capital below P5,000 found selling cigarettes can incur fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 or imprisonment for up to five days.