Smoking Ban in Public Places

Today’s news include a reminder that the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act No. 9211) shall be strictly enforced by the Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) starting Monday, 30 May 2011. There are a number of important points to remember. One, smoking refers to the act of carrying a lighted cigarette or other tobacco products, whether or not it is being inhaled or smoked. So if you’re holding an unlighted cigarette, there should be no problem.

Two, selling cigarettes to minors (below 18 years) or buying cigarettes from minors is absolutely prohibited. It is also illegal for minors to smoke. Three, while there are smoking areas in certain places, smoking is absolutely prohibited in the following public places:

    1. Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for persons under eighteen (18) years old.
    2. Elevators and stairwells.
    3. Locations in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials.
    4. Within the buildings and premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental, and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories.
    5. Public conveyances and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas.
    6. Food preparation areas.

    For discussion purposes, what happens if a local government unit (i.e., province, city, municipality or barangay) issues an ordinance expanding or adding to the list of public places where smoking is absolutely prohibited? Would that contravene R.A. 9211? If so, is the ordinance void for being contrary to law? (For more on the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, go here.)

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