Philippine president imposes public smoking ban

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Updated 19 May 2017
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Philippine president imposes public smoking ban

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order that will impose a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public, reinforcing some of the toughest anti-tobacco measures in Asia.
Smoking cigarettes will be banned in many public places, while selling tobacco within 100 meters of schools and other areas where children gather could attract jail terms, according to the order.
Duterte, a firebrand leader most famous for waging a war on drugs in which thousands of people have died, had promised immediately after becoming president last year to introduce the smoking ban as part of a range of measures to impose more order on society.
Other measures included a ban on singing karaoke at night and a 2:00 am curfew on drinking alcohol in public, although these have yet to be implemented.
Duterte rose to prominence as the longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao, which he said he transformed from being crime-ridden into one of the nation's most liveable and safe urban centers.
However, his critics have said Duterte has supplanted the rule of law with his war on drugs, alleging he has triggered a killing spree by police and vigilantes who have been spurred on by his calls for tens of thousands of people to die.
The order had been reported in some media as a blanket ban on smoking in public places.
However the order did not make that clear and health department spokesman Eric Tayag said the exact areas to be banned would be announced later, with the order set to become law in 60 days.
Nevertheless, the order did state that smoking would be banned in all "enclosed" public places, which are defined as having a roof and at least one wall.
This means it will cover all public buildings, such as workplaces and malls. However there will be designated smoking areas allowed inside these buildings.
Smoking will also be banned on all forms of public transport.
People who smoke in banned areas will face a fine of 500 pesos ($10) for a first offence, rising to a maximum of 10,000 pesos ($200) for a third strike, according to the order.
People who sell tobacco products in banned places could be jailed for up to three years, the order said.
The Philippines already has a ban on tobacco advertising, as well as a law that requires graphic images of smoking health hazards to be printed on cigarette packaging.
Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino, also introduced hefty taxes on smoking.
These have helped to see smoking rates fall in the Philippines.
About 23.8 percent of the adult population smoked in 2015, down from 28.3 percent in 2009, according to government surveys.
The World Health Organization praised Duterte's plans, although it cautioned that they still relied on local governments enforcing them and that was not guaranteed.
"WHO welcomes the Philippine initiative on a nationwide ban on smoking," Dr Florante Trinidad, who works on the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative in the Philippines, said in an e-mail.
Health Justice, a local anti-smoking group, also lauded the initiative but said it did not go far enough, pointing to a provision that allowed for designated smoking areas inside buildings.
"As health advocates, we want the national policy that does not provide for indoor smoking areas," Health Justice managing director Beverly Samson said.
For Duterte, 72, an ex-smoker, the ban is personal.
The leader has said repeatedly he contracted Buerger's disease, an incurable illness affecting arteries and veins which causes great pain, because of his years of smoking, and that was one of the reasons he wanted to introduce the ban.


UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

Updated 13 min 23 sec ago
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UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government had begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan, pressing on with a proposal criticized by both wings of her Conservative Party.
After narrowly escaping defeat in parliament over her plans for leaving the EU, May signalled she would not drop a proposal on Britain’s future relationship with bloc — the biggest shift in its foreign and trade policy for almost half a century.
But by sticking to her plan for a “business-friendly” departure, May has thrown down the gauntlet to Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers in her party who are at war with each other, and — for some — with the prime minister herself.
Boris Johnson, her former foreign minister who quit over what is called the Chequers plan, was one of the first to renew his call for government to rethink its strategy, saying “it is not too late to save Brexit.”
But at an earlier session of parliament, May stood firm after being challenged by one pro-Brexit lawmaker in her party to explain when she had decided to change her catchphrase from “Brexit means Brexit,” to “Brexit means Remain.”
“Brexit continues to mean Brexit,” May said to cheers from her Conservative supporters.
May also said talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document last week after her divided government had thrashed out a deal at her Chequers country residence.
The prime minister insisted she was confident Britain had enough time to negotiate a deal with the EU before leaving in March next year.
While May’s party is in disarray over the plan, EU member Ireland also said it was focusing on the white paper, unwilling to be diverted over the changes to her Brexit plans forced through in parliament this week.
“If we get distracted by individual amendments to individual pieces of legislation ... then I think we get dragged into an unnecessary debate that wastes a lot of time and energy,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.

“WE CAN CHANGE“
May’s vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her majority in an ill-judged election last year, was laid bare on Monday and Tuesday when she faced rebellions from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.
She won the votes on a customs and a trade bill, but suffered an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment, which means her government must now seek continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
But the government’s approach to securing victory in parliament has not only deepened divisions in her party, but also raised the issue of trust.
One Conservative lawmaker told Reuters the party whips, whose job it is to enforce discipline in parliament, had threatened to call a confidence vote in May if she lost — a move that could bring down the government.
Johnson, figurehead of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, led those calls in his resignation speech to parliament. He criticized the government for handing an advantage to the EU by agreeing in the talks to a divorce bill before agreeing a future relationship.
“We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can change again,” he said. “It is as though a fog of self-doubt has descended,” Johnson said. “We should not and need not be stampeded by anyone.”