Press Release
June 3, 2012

Sen. Pia bats for 'smoke-free schools' for 21.5M students as classes reopen

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has called for the stricter enforcement of no-smoking regulations in all public and private schools across the country as 21.5 million students troop to their classes beginning June 4.

"June marks the resumption of classes, but not too many people are aware that it is also observed as 'No-Smoking Month' nationwide," reminded Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committees on Health and Demography and on Youth, Women and Family Relations.

"We should seize the opportunity to educate more people, especially parents and students, on the hazards of tobacco and smoking. Anti-smoking laws should be strictly enforced in schools to protect our youth from second-hand smoke and to discourage them from becoming smokers themselves," she stressed.

Despite the government's aggressive drive against smoking, she lamented that the profile of smokers in the country has gotten even younger. She cited the findings of the 2009 Philippines Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) which showed that of the country's 17 million smokers, 17.5 percent are aged 13-15.

"This means that around three million teenagers, some as young as 13 years old, are holding cigarettes instead of books, and idly burning away instead of focusing on getting a good education for their future," she noted.

She pointed out that under Republic Act 9211 (Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003), smoking is "absolutely prohibited" in playschools, primary, secondary and tertiary schools. The law likewise bans the sale and distribution of tobacco products within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of schools, public playgrounds and other facilities frequented by minors.

"The school, parents, and the local government must do their share. Students themselves can play an active role like supporting anti-smoking campaigns in their schools. They can use the power of social media to report violators to authorities, including those who illegally sell cigarettes to minors," Cayetano said.

"On the other hand, teachers must set the proper example. Those who smoke must refrain from smoking, especially inside the classroom, and within the school premises," she added.

She said the Department of Education (DepEd) has already issued a series of orders in the last three years to ensure strict compliance with RA 9211. These include Department Order No.73, Series of 2010, the 'Smoking Ban in Public Schools' (issued on May 28, 2010), and DepEd Memorandum No.124, Series of 2011, 'Integrating the Anti-Smoking Campaign in the Oplan Balik-Eskwela Program' (issued on May 31, 2011).

She also described as a "landmark policy" Department Order No.6, Series of 2012, which was issued last January by education secretary Armin Luistro.

The order entitled, "Guidelines on the Adoption and Implementation of Public Health Policies on Tobacco Control and Protection against Tobacco Industry Interference," seeks to prevent all forms of cooperation and partnerships between schools and the tobacco industry.

Under the guidelines, school personnel are prohibited from soliciting and accepting gifts, donations and favors from the tobacco industry or its representatives. The prohibition also covers the donation of funds or anything of monetary value, such as the construction of school buildings, donation of school supplies and equipment, and sponsorship of school-feeding programs, medical and dental checkups and similar activities.

"Our educational institutions must be shielded from the interference of cigarette companies which offer assistance in the guise of 'corporate social responsibility.' In guiding the minds of our youth, our learning institutions must also be free from the commercial vested interests of the tobacco industry."

"Admittedly, the education sector is riddled with perennial shortages in classrooms, books and other facilities, but we can find other means to address these problems. The integrity of the public school system and the health and development of our youth must be valued above all else," concluded Cayetano.

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