Although the Philippines and the UAE differ in land mass, natural resources, ethnicity and religion, they still have something in common: they prohibit smoking.
Dr. Allan Handysides, Director of the Health Ministries of the Adventist Church, said it right. “As anti-tobacco restrictions tighten in the West, tobacco companies are stepping up their advertising in non-Western markets, and attempting to dump their product where there is least resistance. It is no surprise then that smoking rates are on the rise in Asia."
The UAE and the Philippines might have also observed this, but it was the latter that had acted first. Before the turn of the century, the Philippines established the Clean Air Act 1999 that identified cigarette smoke as a pollutant and instituted smoke-free indoor air laws. It still allows the public to smoke, but only at designated areas in restaurants and other indoor outlets. Four years after, a Youth Smoking Cessation Program was signed, encouraging smoke-free campuses, enhancing awareness and levying penalties for violators.
During the same year, the Tobacco Regulatory Act intending to increase public education measures, ban all tobacco advertisement, strengthen warning labels on tobacco products, and prohibit sales to minors was passed. Former Senator Juan Flavier also proposed the Smoke-free Workplace Law, which imposed an absolute smoking ban in public places and totally forbid tobacco advertisements by July 2008.
Religious organizations and local institutions also did what they can to help alleviate second hand smoking, for it could result to asthma, bronchial infections, respiratory ailments, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS, cancer, heart attack, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. Cebu-based Seventh-day Adventists had built the first permanent "Breathe-Free" stop-smoking clinic. They had also established health departments in Central Luzon, South Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Northern Luzon, Mountain Province, Cagayan Valley Sanitarium and Hospital and in the International Institute of Health at the Adventist University of the Philippines.
Its neighboring region, Davao City, has also outlined an Anti-Smoking Ordinance that fines both residents and visitors of their place from P300 to P1,000 pesos or imprisonment from one to four months. Owners of establishments who failed to report smoking in their place will also be penalized.
Aside from these, the IPA and the Rural Green Bank of Caraga has introduced a commitment savings program that grants financial incentives to its clients who would be able to stop smoking. Dubbed as CARES or Committed Action to Reduce and End Smoking, the program enables a smoker to open a CARES savings account and commit to quit smoking in six months. But access to his or her account again would depend if he or she could keep his or her commitment and pass a nicotine test after the required period.
While the Department of Health planned for a No Smoking Philippines last May 31, the UAE, which became a signatory of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control this year only, has vetoed smoking in government buildings and public places such as libraries. Later this month, shopping centres, cafes and restaurants that assigned smoking areas in their space will be mandated ventilation requirements (September 15). Cigarette manufacturers will also be ordered to include health warnings on their product’s packet in large Arabic and English prints, and comply with technical standards on content, putting only 0.6 milligrams of nicotine, 10 milligrams of tar and 12 milligrams of carbon monoxide (September 29).
The UAE will also place a blanket ban on smoking in educational establishments, hair salons, health clubs, internet cafes, food courts and offices (November 15). Smoking would then be entirely outlawed in government buildings, shopping malls, beauty salons, hotels and restaurants. Dubai and Ras Al Kaimah has also established two cessation clinics in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Novartis Consumer Health Company. Nicotine replacement therapies, free consultation as well as smoking cessation medicines sold for half the price (for patients with health cards) would be offered there.
As soon as the laws were enacted, violators will either be jailed or penalized. Anyone caught selling tobacco products to minors in the Philippines will be imprisoned for up to three years and pay up to P400,000. Starting next year, the UAE will also be charging its citizens Dh500 for smoking in public buildings, while the companies operating in the country that will not abide by the regulation will also given a prison sentence or a fine of at least Dh30,000.
Why an oil-rich state and a developing country are both keen in eradicating smoking is because they also want to improve the quality of the air their people breathe, for it will not only provide safety and good health, but would also perk up the economy because the environment and its human resources will be protected.
Currently, the UAE ranks among the countries with the highest cigarette consumption. In fact, about 31% of its student teenagers use one or more tobacco products (10% of them are regular smokers). The National Nutrition and Health Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology and 10 other medical organizations in the Philippines revealed that 35 out of 100 Filipinos still smoke. The number of adult male smokers also increased from 53.8% in 1998 to 56.3% this year, while adult female smokers decreased from 12.6% in 1998 to 12.1% this year.