Philippine president imposes public smoking ban

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Updated 19 May 2017

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.

At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 4 min 10 sec ago

At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

Police have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram where the shooting happened, AP reported.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökman Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run.

Paramilitary police have increased security at airports, mosques and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car.

Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.


Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”


Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)