By Chito Chavez
With the signing of Executive Order no. 26 eight months ago, anti-smoking advocacy group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) reiterated that private firms are not compelled to provide designated smoking areas (DSAs) in their premises.
The statement was made to clear the issue as the group continued its campaign to reduce if not totally eliminate tobacco use.
NVAP president Emer Rojas stressed privately owned buildings must not feel compelled to establish DSAs if they don’t want to.
“We applaud private entities and companies who opted to go 100-percent smoke-free and not to have any DSAs in their respective premises. And they do not have any reason to think that they are breaking the law if they are getting complaints,” Rojas said.
“They just need to be reminded that they are not obliged or required to have DSAs if they choose not to,” he added.
Rojas said private establishments even have the discretion to further enhance the provisions of EO 26 and may include e-cigarettes.
“The EO actually allows them to impose stricter anti-smoking policies if they want to. Airlines prohibit smoking as well as use of e-cigarettes while inside an airplane,” said Rojas.
Section 4 of EO 26 states that all persons-in-charge are not compelled to establish DSAs nor prevent them from instituting more stringent measures in their buildings and establishments to better ensure a smoke-free environment in their premises.
On the other hand, Rojas said those who shall opt to establish DSAs should strictly adhere to the standards that have been provided under EO 26.
A DSA is defined as “an area of a building or conveyance where smoking may be allowed, which may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation subject to the specific standards”.
“DSAs must not just be any other area, where people can smoke cigarettes. They must have the necessary safeguards against nonsmokers,” said Rojas.
The EO states that there shall be no opening that will allow air to escape from the DSA to the smoke-free area of the building or conveyance; shall not be located in or within 10 meters from entrances, exits, or any place where people pass or congregate, or in front of air-intake ducts; that the combined area of the DSA and the Buffer Zone shall not be larger than 20 percent of the total floor area of the building or conveyance, provided that in no case shall such area be less than 10 square meters; and that no building or conveyance shall have more than one DSA.
The EO also provides that the ventilation system for the DSA other than in an open space and for the Buffer Zone shall be independent of all ventilation systems servicing the rest of the building or conveyance; that minors shall not be allowed inside the DSA and the Buffer Zone; and the DSA shall have highly visible and prominently displayed “Smoking Area” signage, graphic health warnings on the effects of tobacco use, and prohibition on the entry of persons below 18 years old.
Rojas said strictly adhering to the DSA standards shall help ensure that the public is protected against the threat of secondhand smoke.
“Otherwise, the threat of secondhand smoke will continue to be present and hovering over the public, especially nonsmokers,” said Rojas.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), secondhand smoke carries equal threat to nonsmokers just as actual smoking.
In addition, the WHO said there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
Secondhand smoke is found to cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer to adults; as well as sudden death and low birth weight to infants.
Records show that secondhand smoke causes more than 890,000 premature deaths per year.