I just want to know if there is a law prohibiting smoking in public places. It seems to me that there is none, because everywhere I go, there are people smoking even in public places such as the malls, public markets, bus terminals, etc.
It is common knowledge that smoking is hazardous to one’s health, not only to smokers but to non-smokers as well. It is the cause of numerous respiratory ailments ranging from a simple cough up to as severe as cancer, especially cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system.
The state recognizes the right of everyone to breathe clean air, in order to protect the people from the harmful effects of smoking and to regulate the advertisement and sale of tobacco products, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9211 or Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 came into being.
Under this law, smoking in public places has been prohibited. It particularly prohibits smoking in enclosed public areas such as hospitals, schools, terminals, among others. Section 5 of the said law provides:
“Section 5. Smoking in Public Places – Smoking shall be absolutely prohibited in the following public places:
a. 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;
b. Elevator and stairwells;
c. Location in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials;
d. Within the buildings and premises of public and private hospitals. Medical, dental, and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories;
e. Public conveyance and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurant and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas; and
f. Food preparation areas.”
Aside from the places mentioned above, if a place is enclosed and accessible to the public, it is the duty of the owner or whoever is in charge of that place to designate a smoking area to prevent non-smokers from being exposed to cigarette or tobacco smoke. This is particularly provided by Section 6 of the said law, to wit:
“Section 6. Designated Smoking And Non-Smoking Areas – In all enclosed places that are open to the general public, private workplaces, and other places not covered under the preceding section, where smoking may expose a person other than the smoker to tobacco smoke, the owner, proprietor, possessor, manager or administrator of such places shall establish smoking areas. Such areas may include a designated smoking area within the building, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation, but shall not be located within the same room that has been designated as a non-smoking area.
All designated smoking areas shall have at least one legible and visible sign posted, namely “SMOKING AREA” for the information and guidance of all concerned. In addition, the sign or notice posted shall include a warning about the health effects of direct or second hand exposure to tobacco smoke. Non-smoking areas shall likewise have at least one legible and visible sign, namely: “NO SMOKING AREA” or “NO SMOKING.”
Violations of the abovementioned provisions such as smoking in areas where it is not allowed and non-compliance by the owner, proprietor, possessor, manager or administrator of the places mentioned of designating a non-smoking area, may subject the violator thereof to a penalty of a fine and/or revocation of business permits and licenses to operate as the case may be. The schedule of fines is as follows:
“Section 32. Penalties – The following penalties shall apply:
a. Violation of Sections 5 and 6. – On the first offense, a fine of not less than P500 but not more than P1,000 shall be imposed.
On the second offense, a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P5,000 shall be imposed.
On the third offense, in addition to a fine of not less than P5,000 but not more than P10,000, the business permits and licenses to operate shall be cancelled or revoked.”
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org