Convenient stores within the vicinity of the campus return to selling tobacco products after they emptied their cigarettes shelves (inset) last July following a Manila City ordinanace. Photo by Isabela A. MartinezFOLLOWING City Hall’s confiscation of tobacco products last July, a number of stores near the campus are back on business––selling cigarettes despite authorities’ efforts to ban these products near schools.

It’s not that there’s no clear prohibition: Republic Act No. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 states: “The sale or distribution of tobacco products is prohibited within one hundred (100) meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by minors.”

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven—which has a branch at Dapitan Street just a short walkaway from UST High School—admitted it had started selling cigarettes anew, claiming to have obtained a permit from Manila City Hall.

“We were only ordered by the head office of 7-Eleven to resell them (cigarettes). They said they have [obtained] permission from the Manila City Hall to resell cigarettes,” said Bell Abendaño, manager of 7-Eleven Dapitan branch, in an interview last September 9.

But she said the store does not sell tobacco products to minors, adding that cigarettes are sold only from six in the evening until six in the morning to prevent minors from buying.*

Regina Bartolome, Manila health department medical officer and anti-smoking task force member, confirmed that 7-Eleven management had secured a permission to operate, but not a permission to sell tobacco products.

“They do have a permit to operate, but they didn’t specify what they will be selling. The mere fact that they are within 100 meters from school premises is already a violation [of the tobacco regulation law’s provision],” Bartolome said.

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Another convenience store in Dapitan, Ministop, declined to go on record for this story. A check of convenience stores outside UST showed that cigarettes were still being sold freely despite the ban.

Last year, city and barangay officials tightened up on the sale of tobacco products after the Civil Service Commission issued a memorandum circular requiring local government officials to implement the 2003 tobacco regulation law.

Faulty implementation

Bartolome pointed out that the law would not be implemented effectively without the cooperation of business establishments and regular monitoring by the government.

While it is the responsibility of the owner of a building or the head of an establishment to monitor the sale and restrict the marketing of tobacco products near schools, it is the duty of sanitation officials of the Manila City Health office to initiate inspections, Bartolome said.

Bartolome, however, admitted that there are not enough inspectors.

“We have sent notices before, but we were not able to follow them up.
We only have a limited number of inspectors and they only work 20 days in a month, so it is hard for them to do the inspection regularly,” Bartolome said.

Some Thomasians are dismayed over the smoking ban violations, demanding a strict implementation of the law.

Ma. Alexis Besilia, a nutrition and dietetics sophomore, said the sale of cigarettes should be banned across the country, if not controlled.

College of Science sophomore Julia Ocampo, echoed Besilia, saying convenience stores should stop the sale of cigarettes and think of the health risks these products pose on students, instead of financial gains.

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“They should totally stop the sale of tobacco products to help minimize the number of smoking students. They should be more considerate on the health of the students,” she said.

Respiratory medicine specialist Dr. Ronila Santos, UST Hospital Smoking Cessation Unit head, pointed out that the ban was specifically directed towards schools, as cigarette manufacturing companies often target the youth, especially women.

“The youth have become the favorable market because they have the most years left. That’s why the [law] is directed at schools. We don’t want the children to start smoking,” she said.
Santos said UST has done its part in strictly prohibiting the selling of cigarettes and smoking inside the campus. It’s now the government’s turn to curtail smoking outside.

“As far as the [law] is concerned, they should have established the inspection team before they approved the [law],” she said.

Given the difficulty of implementing the law, UST Health Service Director Dr. Maria Salve Olalia said students should just quit smoking.
“If our Thomasians will patronize those [who are] selling cigarettes and continue to smoke, they are at risk of developing smoking-related diseases of the lungs, heart and other systems,” Olalia warned. “As already established, smoking affects almost all the systems of the

Third-hand smoke also has cancer-causing chemical compounds such as tobacco-specific nitroamines, and are more dangerous when inhaled by people, she added.

Penalty to violators

City Hall nonetheless has a reporting mechanism in which the public can notify health officers of violations of the tobacco regulation law, by contacting the Manila health office hotline at 302-6679.
Two days upon receiving a report, the sanitation division of the Manila City Hall is supposed to issue a warning to the store found selling cigarettes within a 100-meter radius from schools. After seven days, a follow-up inspection will be conducted to remind store owners of the offense. A final inspection will be conducted seven days after the previous inspection, with another warning issued if the store did not comply.

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If the establishment fails to comply seven days after the final inspection, the Business Permit and Development Office will close the establishment.
Those who sell or distribute tobacco products 100 meters from the perimeter of a school or any public place frequently visited by minors face a fine of not less than P5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 30 days.

“Anyone can file a report to us, but we have due process before we can close any establishment that violates the provision,” Bartolome said.

Violators of RA 9211 may also be reported to the NOSI or No to Sigarilyo Campaign hotline 661-3747, or by logging on to

*Last October 28, 7-Eleven Dapitan crew said the store has stopped selling cigarettes altogether.


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