Monday, May 30, 2011

Smoking ban: will it work?

Today the MMDA-led metro-wide smoking ban takes effect. It's supposedly part of a campaign to protect Filipinos from secondhand smoke. So where exactly is smoking prohibited?

- Bus terminals (Couldn't agree more. But how about jeepney, shuttle, and tricycle terminals?)
- Waiting sheds (Manang Yosi, you should now look for some place else to make a living.)
- Schools (How about outside school?)
- Hospitals (Why, do people smoke in hospitals?)
- Recreational places (What exactly are recreational places? It's too generic.)
- Inside public utility vehicles (But this has long been in effect in Cebu! But I definitely agree.)
- Government buildings (Yeah, right. Lead the way.)

I haven't read the law, ordinance, or whatever it is (is there actually any at all?) but what the MMDA has failed to indicate is where now can smokers light up a joint. Penalties, I've read, include fines and community service but will only take effect in July. MMDA "environmental enforcers" will first issue warnings to violators. But whether verbal, written, or electronic, I don't think it was specified.

Anyway, now the MMDA has "environmental enforcers?" Wow! With the agency's dubious track record, I don't think they'll succeed in implementing this. Maybe for the first few weeks, yes. But in the long run, no. Just look at our streets: bus drivers are as boldly reckless as ever. The same holds true for jeepney, taxi, and tricycle drivers. Why do I have a feeling that they only target drivers of privately owned vehicles?

I understand the MMDA's intentions but geez, the government couldn't even get the tobacco companies to carry bolder health warnings on their packaging! Well, they tried but yet again, failed. Why can't they show some teeth like our other Asian neighbors do? Look at what Thailand did:

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Scary, right? And in-your-face! Hong Kong had it tamer but the warning is still prominent on the packaging:

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We have thousands of laws that yielded nothing, which just shows our government's lack of -- or maybe absence of -- political will to actually implement them. Whatever happened to all those anti-smoke belching laws, let alone the Clean Air Act? Our streets are still as polluted as ever! So this smoking ban? You be the judge.

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