Is Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte about to expand his brutal war on drugs to include smoking? The authoritarian leader issued an executive order last week that prohibits smoking in public places.
Under the new law, smoking will only be allowed in “designated smoking areas,” according to the New York Times. The law also restricts advertising, and promises serious punishment for those who give or sell tobacco products to minors, including jail sentences.
The Philippines Department of Health will soon issue regulations on e-cigarettes too, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We will just make a separate issuance, like an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) order,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told the paper. The executive order issued by President Dutarte does not currently cover vaping. (An earlier edition of this article misreported that vaping was part of the ban.)
Most disturbing is the president’s call for citizens to get involved in enforcing the law. The strongman is asking Filipinos to join “Smoke Free Task Forces” to assist authorities in catching and punishing violators, calling to mind the murderous drug war he has carried out.
Since Duterte took power in the Pacific island nation, thousands of suspected drug dealers and users have been killed, encouraged by the bloodthirsty president. Estimates for the last six months of 2016 alone are more than 4,000 killed by vigilantes and another 2,000 killed by police.
Duterte has blessed the extrajudicial violence. “Even if I wanted to I cannot kill them all,” he said, explaining his call for vigilante help. During his presidential campaign, he promised to kill 100,000 “addicts” and dealers, and said the fish in Manila Bay would grow fat from feeding on all the drug users’ bodies he would dump there.
His brutal tactics have been decried by human rights advocates, but unsurprisingly, ignored by international tobacco control officials, who seem happy to overlook thousands of state-sanctioned murders as long as Duterte adheres to tobacco control orthodoxy.
Vera daCosta e Silva, head of the World Health Organization’s FCTC secretariat — its tobacco control agency — cheerfully tweeted to the dictator last fall. “Congratulations Philippines,” she wrote in October, while thousands of Filipinos were being slaughtered on Duterte’s orders.