LAOAG CITY - A photo of a six-year-old child smoking an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with a friend alarmed social workers in Laoag City.
The photo, taken and posted by JC Tabios III on Facebook, drew negative comments from netizens and officials.
In a video interview posted by Tabios, the child said that he bought the e-cigarette from a bargain store or “baratilyo” for P200.
"Naka-duty ako noon sa Tabacalera as a tourist aide, and then suddenly sa may labas, nakita ko iyong dalawang bata na parang naglalaro lang silang dalawa and and nagshe-share sila nung stick, 'yung vape or electronic cigarette,” said Tabios.
City Social Welfare and Development Officer Mary Joan Pasigui expressed her disappointment with the vendor who sold the e-cigarette to the child.
This case, she said, was a violation of a city resolution calling for the strict implementation of Republic Act No. 9211, or otherwise known as Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003. The act prohibits minors, ages 18 years below, from selling, buying, and smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products.
"Bawal bentahan ang mga bata na may edad 18 pababa ng sigarilyo. Hindi lang sigarilyo, pati mga alcoholic beverages," Pasigui explained.
Under this act, specifically for grave offense, any person or any business entity or establishment selling to, distributing or purchasing a cigarette or any other tobacco products for a minor shall be fined of not less than P5,000 pesos or imprisonment of not more than 30 days, plus revocation of business licenses or permits.
"Iyong nagtitinda, alam niyang bata, minor, ang bebentahan niya. Dahil lang naman ata gusto niyang makabenta, kaya binentahan na lang niya," the child’s father said.
His son bought the e-cigarette using the money they earned from singing carols during the Christmas season.
The CSWDO, Treasury, and Licensing offices reminded bargain store owners and vendors of RA 9211, and warned that they might face sanctions if they sell prohibited goods to minors.
The CSWDO reminded parents to closely monitor and guide their children. Vendors should also be responsible in selling items or products such as cigarettes or any tobacco products, and be mindful not only of their business, but for the youth’s welfare as well.