From “sleeping ordinance” to smoke-free enforcement

Davao Anti-Smoking Task Force/Domilyn Villarreiz
Davao Anti-Smoking Task Force/Domilyn Villarreiz

Davao City is a leading example for taking forward the smoke-free agenda in the Philippines. In advance of the 2003 National Tobacco Control Law, and originating from tobacco control measures to strengthen anti-smoking policy promoted by the City Mayor, the City Council passed its Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance in 2002. It has actively promoted and enforced it.

At national level, the subsequent 2003 Tobacco Regulation Act prohibits smoking in a wide range of public places but is less protective than the Davao City ordinance, not least because owners can determine the size and specifications of the smoking and non-smoking areas on their premises.


Population: 1 363 337

Smokers (nationally): 28%

The Davao City Ordinance bans smoking in all public places and enclosed places but has an option for designating a smoking area – provided establishments pass through a series of rigid inspections by the Anti-Smoking Task Force. The ordinance sets out that a “designated smoking room” must be a totally enclosed space with proper ventilation and certified by the City Health Office and City Engineer’s Office. The ordinance also extends smoke-free places to some public outdoor spaces where people congregate to be together or attend concerts, rallies and other events.

Key actions

The Davao City smoke-free experience is notable for a series of effective actions during the development and implementation of its smoke-free ordinance. These include:

  • A series of public hearings with various stakeholders including representatives of the business and tourism sectors who had initially opposed the ordinance.
  • Opposing proposals to allow smoking in small restaurants, on the grounds that the ordinance was intended to protect people's health.
  • The appointment by the Mayor of a Smoke-Free Davao Coordinator to take charge of campaign initiatives and the Smoke-Free Davao Programme.
  • An initial advocacy campaign to raise public awareness about the provisions of the health risks of smoking, the smoke-free ordinance and to prepare the citizens of Davao for its enforcement and implementation.
  • A long-term information, education and communication campaign incorporating social marketing, advocacy and counter-marketing tactics.
  • The creation of the Association of Smoke-Free Davao Advocates – with more than 1000 members – to inform the public about the ill-effects of smoking and to report violators.


  • Despite the possibility of incorporating designated smoking rooms, the majority of public places are completely smoke-free.
  • There is some evidence that the intensity of smoking reduced in the city.
  • Davao City’s smoke-free experience has been recognized by, and become a learning resource for, other cities and countries in the region.

Lessons learnt

  • The Mayor’s leadership underlines the vital role that consistent political will from city leaders can play in initiating and seeing through smoke-free legislation.
  • Building an extensive partnership, formalized by the creation of the Association of Smoke-Free Davao Advocates, enabled the reach and effectiveness of awareness raising and inspection to be enhanced significantly.
  • The Davao experience highlights the importance of initiating intensive mass-media campaigns and information drives in advance of legislation coming into effect.
  • Davao’s experience demonstrates that smoke-free laws can work in the Philippines.