MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is turning to another battle aside from illegal drugs: smoking.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said Tuesday she hopes the president can sign the draft executive order banning smoking in public nationwide before the end of the month.
The department is pushing for the ban to start before the law providing for graphic health warnings on tobacco products is fully implemented on Nov. 4, Ubial told a Senate budget hearing.
Duterte ordered a 100 percent smoke-free environment in public places similar to Davao, the southern city where he was formerly mayor, she added.
Designated smoking areas are to be outdoors and away from the public, and provinces and towns will be asked to issue ordinances to enforce the smoking ban and set penalties. She also said e-cigarettes will be included in the ban.
"There will be no smoking in public places anymore, whether indoor or outdoor," Ubial earlier told reporters. "Parks, bus stations, and even in vehicles. All these are considered public places."
Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said the order aims to protect the public from secondhand or thirdhand smoke _ that inhaled when a smoker is nearby or when smoke lingers.
Duterte took office on June 30 vowing to expand his anti-drug campaign from Davao. The crackdown has left about 3,600 suspected drug pushers and users dead, including more than 1,500 suspects killed in gunbattles with police. The killings have been widely condemned from human rights advocates, and the United States, European Union and United Nations.
Many have wondered if Duterte would also expand a Davao ban on powerful firecrackers during New Year's Eve revelry. If the ban is imposed nationally, he would bring a major change in a violent celebratory tradition that has caused deaths and hundreds of injuries each year.