One of the most common misconceptions about workplace smoking is that designated areas will suffice instead of going 100-percent smoke-free.
What many people don’t know is that designated smoking areas (DSAs) imply that workers and visitors are still exposed to second-hand smoke, and the only way to eliminate the hazards of tobacco smoke is through a 100 percent smoke-free policy.
“A smoke-free workplace is not a privilege, it’s a global standard,” said medical doctor Shing Young-soo, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for the Western Pacific, in a statement.
In a data presented by WHO, smoking at work is associated with more lost workdays, more industrial accidents and occupational injuries, time lost from work on smoking breaks, higher insurance premiums for smoking workers, higher cleaning costs, and higher insurance premiums for fire and other hazards.
The rate of lung cancer for workers in bar and restaurants that allow smoking as opposed to the general is 50-percent higher. The total time lost from smoking breaks annually is 20 days.
Research from the United Kingdom found that smokers spend 40 minutes each workday to smoke.
Tobacco kills 7 million people around the world each year, including 890,000 non-smokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke.
In a Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2015, 23.8 percent of adults (aged 15 years and above) are current tobacco users; 21.5 percent of adults working in indoor workplaces reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in their workplace.
“In the Philippines, it is estimated that nearly 118,000 deaths are attributable to tobacco use and exposure annually,” said Mina Kashiwabara, technical officer of Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO Western Pacific Regional Office.
WHO’s new smoke-free campaign
WHO has traditionally targeted governments to adopt and enforce smoke-free laws, but even with the best understanding and intentions, strong opposition hinders the passage of effective laws.
Out of 27 member-states in the WHO Western Pacific Region, only nine have adopted comprehensive smoke-free laws covering all public places and workplaces, leaving hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to second-hand smoke.
Launched on July 16, 2018, Revolution Smoke-Free campaign invited businesses across the Western Pacific Region to establish smoke-free workplaces in which everyone is free from tobacco smoke in their workplaces and beyond.
“This campaign highlights the importance of protecting employee health and the bottom line through a commitment to creating a smoke-free environment in the workplace,” said Shin.
Through the campaign website, http://www.revolutionsmokefree.org, companies can establish smoke-free workplaces and offer support to employees who wish to quit.
Workers can also learn about how to make their workplaces smoke-free or they can request their management to implement a smoke-free workplace policy.
Participating businesses can share experiences in going smoke-free and invite other businesses to also commit to smoke-free workplaces.
“Companies can submit their pledge on the campaign site and their stories on going smoke-free. The stories may be published on the campaign site to encourage others to join,” said Kashiwabara.
The global data overwhelmingly confirm that a smoke-free policy does not harm businesses.
In fact, some industries, sales improve after going smoke-free as smoke-free workplaces keep everyone in the office healthier and safe.
The employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace is reduced to zero, making them more productive and less prone to missed days at work. Smokers even support smoke-free policies after they’ve experienced it.
The first country launch event was carried out in Beijing, China, the same day the campaign was launched. Hopefully, the campaign will be launched in the Philippines in the last quarter of 2018.
For who wishes to take part in Revolution Smoke-Free, one may visit the website to sign up and join the movement. From there, one can get access to the materials needed to implement a smoke-free workplace.
By joining the movement, companies must ensure a 100 percent smoke-free workplace without any exemptions like DSAs.
Businesses will be guided on how to successfully launch a policy through the kit available from the site.
PH’s nationwide smoking ban
On May 16, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued an Executive Order (EO) 26, entitled “Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places” imposing a nationwide ban on smoking in all public places in the Philippines.
The order, which took effect on July 23, 2017, 60 days after its publication in a newspaper, replicates on a national level existing ordnance in Davao City that President Duterte created as mayor in 2002.
Violators of EO face fines ranging from P500 to P1,000 for the first offense, P1,000 to P5,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 to P10,000 for the third offense plus revocation of a business permit or license to operate in the violating establishment.
The public may report violators to the Department of Health hotline (02) 711-1002.
The National Capital Region Police Office reported that the smoking ban ordinance saw most numbers of violators from June 13 to July 13, 2018.
A total of 16,442 people violated the smoking ban, which is equal to 33.95 percent of the total recorded violations of ordinances against drinking in public places, being half-naked in public places, smoking, violating curfew hours for minors, and others.
The Eastern Police District (EPD) reported the most number of ordinance violators at 22,440 out of the total 48,435 cases recorded for the entire NCRPO.
While the EO was warmly received by the public and health advocates as a realization of a tobacco-free future, Section 4 of the EO, however, allows smoking only in DSAs, which may either be a separate area with proper ventilation, open space, and where warnings on the ill effects of smoking should be posted. It does not also cover vapes and e-cigarettes.
Article originally published at The Manila Times on August 4, 2018