I was once smoking in peace while waiting for my bus ride going home when I was asked by a policeman to put out my cigarette. He also told me that what I was doing was illegal, and I was warned that I would be penalized next time if I would be caught smoking there again. Since I was already too tired to argue, I just extinguished my cigarette and walked away.
While I don’t intend to justify my vice, I still want to know if there is a legal basis to prevent me from smoking in such places. And if so, does the law specify the places where smoking is not allowed? Thank you in advance for your advice!
Republic Act (RA) 9211, or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, is the law that regulates the use of tobacco products in line with the policy of the State to promote a healthful environment and protect citizens from the hazards of tobacco smoke.
This law specifies and enumerates the places where smoking is banned. According to this law:
“Smoking Ban 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. Elevators and stairwells;
c. Locations 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 conveyances and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas; and
f. Food preparation areas.” (Section 5, Ibid.)
As clearly stated above, the law absolutely prohibits smoking in those enumerated places, including bus terminals, which are similar to where you were warned by a policeman.
For your information, it is important to know that violation of this law carries a penalty in the form of fine the amount of which depends on the frequency of the offense. Should you be caught illegally smoking in public, you will be penalized with a fine in the amount of not less than Five hundred pesos (Php500.00) but not more than One thousand Pesos (Php1,000.00) for your first offense. For a second offense, a fine of not less than One thousand Pesos (Php1,000.00) but not more than Five thousand pesos (Php5,000.00) shall be imposed. And for the third offense, a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (Php5,000.00) but not more than Ten thousand Pesos (Php10,000.00) shall be imposed. (Sec. 32, Id.)
Thus, should you decide to smoke again in public, you should be aware of the place where you smoke considering that there is already a law that prohibits and penalizes public smoking.
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