January 14, 2022 – The Department of Education (DepEd) has enjoined various government agencies, Local Government Units (LGUs), and partners to support of smoke-free schools and communities during the 2nd Smoke-Free LGU Forum: Sustaining Smoke-Free Communities in the New Normal.

Together with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Health Justice Philippines, DepEd conducted a dialogue with LGUs on how they can sustain the implementation of smoke-free environment programs in the new normal.

“I hope that through this forum, DepEd, DILG, and DOH can commit to complement our resources and prioritize to issue a joint memorandum circular as soon as possible that will further expound on this need to institutionalize supportive health policies, particularly to strengthen and unify our efforts on tobacco control, especially in our schools,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said.

Secretary Briones believes that the forum presents an opportunity to work hand in hand again with partner government agencies in making sure that every school in the new normal is truly smoke-free.

“As far as our policy is concerned, our schools have always been smoke-free. Since 2016, the DepEd has institutionalized a comprehensive tobacco control policy that prohibits smoking near schools and among our learners,” Sec. Briones added.

The Education Chief also mentioned that DepEd also designated Tobacco Control Coordinators in region and division offices and briefed tobacco intervention providers among the Department’s health personnel and have supported them in implementing programs and delivering services for the learners.

“We have long integrated key tobacco control concepts in our curriculum, while we have also regularly conducted and participated in various co-curricular activities to increase awareness among our learners about the ill-effects of tobacco use,” added Briones

On the other hand, the DOH stated the importance of cooperation with the LGU in strengthening the reforms in protecting the youth from the harms of tobacco, especially now that we are still battling the ill effects of the current pandemic.

“We at the DOH believe that by working closely with our Local Government Units, we can truly realize these policy reforms and create a healthy Pilipinas where all Filipinos, especially the youth, are protected from the harms of tobacco, vapes, heated tobacco products, and other novel tobacco products, more so in times of health crisis,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

The forum featured presentations from LGUs and discussions on how smoke-free programs can complement the current health protocols to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at the community level.