By Elmer James Bandol
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – An aggressive performance as “Smoke-Free City” was shown in 2017 report submitted to the offices of Mayor and Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) here, reflecting that 1,900 persons were apprehended, two cases still filed in courts while more than P545,000.00 fines were collected by the treasury.
Smoke-Free City Head, Jaime L. Olarte, said that threat and intimidation attempts made against him, will not deter his smokeless environment advocacy being pursued by his office despite the lack of funds, enforcers, and volunteers. His office has three casual employees and six volunteers where to whom his allowance of P1,000 weekly is distributed for snacks stipend. Olarte renews his “contract” with Mayor Noel E. Rosal every six months.
“Never mention the magic word,” Olarte said in dialect as a warning to smoke ban violators, when interviewed by this writer. He said those who intend to name-drop as Mayor’s barangay leader, relative or “padrino”. “Tutuloyan ko pa rin sila”, however, his aggressive actions toward violators is coupled with compassion part of his consideration, he added.
It started its campaign against smoking by targeting the youths around school campuses and by enjoining school administrators to be mindful of their students vulnerable to barkada (peer pressure).
By believing that younger person begins to smoke, the more when becoming an adult where about 80 percent regular smokers started before the age of 18, hence, developed long-term nicotine addiction, according to Smoke-Free Albay Network, another group advocate headed by Ros Olarte, nurse, and brother of Jaime.
The city started its tobacco-free campaign with the full and strict enforcement of its Revised Smoke-Free Ordinance in 2009 which earned for the local government the Red Orchid Awards for three consecutive years starting in 2010. Said campaign, however, was confined mostly in urban barangays. There are 70 barangays and 46 are urban or within the city boundary.
Sari-sari store owners secretly selling cigarettes are among those penalized including beer joints operators near Boulevard even in wee hours of the night, said Olarte. Most apprehensions made, however, were not brought to courts but issued Citation Tickets to pay fine within 72 hours to Legazpi City Treasurer’s Office.
Volunteer-enforcers have discovered that a number of smokers caught on the street used fictitious names and different addresses in the course of an investigation which opened an opportunity for the lawmen to demand “legitimate” or government identification papers of violators.
The award given to this city is first of its kind that gives recognition to cities, municipalities, government offices and health facilities strictly enforcing tobacco control measures, has served as “feather on its cap” by the only local government unit in Bicol which had been consistent and determined to pursue tobacco-free environment.
Red Orchid was set up by the health department to attach importance to these government units and institutions that are putting strength in comprehensive efforts to implement a 100 percent tobacco-free environment based on the MPOWER initiative of the World Health Organization.
MPOWER is an acronym that denotes the six proven tobacco control policies, namely: Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; Protect people from tobacco smoke; Offer help to quit tobacco use; Warn against the dangers of tobacco; Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, and Raise taxes on tobacco.
Legazpi, categorized as key urban locality being the “City of Fun & Adventure” shadowed by the beauty of the majestic Mayon Volcano, was named one of the three winners in the Livable Cities Design Challenge in grand ceremonies held recently in Manila.
Regarding smoking cessation, the City Health Office reported; “No takers, despite free”, But why? According to Devine Calleja, population officer, myths or misconceptions prevent smokers from availing this rehabilitation program. “Education and information drive must continue”, she said.
According to Calleja, a long time smoker diagnosed by a government doctor has “probably created fear on the part of the smoker” by having an impression that smoking shortens lifespan and therefore death will come, She said, another smoker has refused to clean his teeth of nicotine as other bacteria might be ruined his teeth.
Olarte’s office has proposed P500 thousand yearly budget operations, however, was denied by the Sangguniang. The campaign continuity and final success lie in the hands of the chief executive. [BicolToday.com]