May 25, 2010 - The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday, has stepped up the pressure on tobacco companies, ordering them to start printing in 90 days, explicit warnings on cigarette packs that would illustrate the ill effects of smoking.
DoH Secretary Esperanza Cabral said tobacco companies should comply with Administrative Order 13 which the health department issued on May 12. The order was issued in line with the country's commitment to an international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of which the Philippines is a signatory. (Philippines - DoH pushes for picture warnings on cigarette packs..)
Ninety-six percent of Filipino smokers said graphic health warnings would most likely make them quit compared to bland text warnings, according to a recent study of the Council on Tobacco for Health and Air of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians. (Graphic health warnings may make smokers quit, says study by Jocelyn Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/14/2008)
Cabral said the printing of graphic warnings on cigarette packs should have started in 2008, but this was opposed by tobacco firms, which until now, use only text in their "smoking warnings." in cigarette packs.
The DoH has come up with several designs that show the consequences of smoking, including cancer. Tobacco companies can choose which design they will print in their cigarette packs. The warnings are aimed at deterring smokers from continuing what is widely recognized as a hazardous vice.
Failure to comply with the DoH order will among others, mean closure of outlets where the products are distributed, including fines of about P5 million.
The government said previously that the cost of smoking-related diseases, estimated at P200 billion, is significantly higher than the yearly P30 billion in taxes raked in by the government from tobacco companies. Cigarette-smoking kills some 240 Filipinos a day.
According to Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla, tobacco companies with existing technology to print graphic warnings have 45 days from date of publication or until mid-July to comply. The newly merged Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and Fortune Tobacco comprised 92 percent of the country’s tobacco industry. (Philippines - PMI - FTC merger may lead smokers continuing to smoke and lure children into a life of nicotine addiction..)
Tobacco companies are expected to lobby against the DoH order. The Philippine Tobacco Institute is already opposing the directive, citing Reublic Act 9211 or 2003 which allows tobacco firms to just print text warnings. On Sunday, May 23rd the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) warned Health Secretary, Esperanza Cabral, that her plan to issue an administrative order to compel cigarette manufacturers to put picture-based warnings on cigarette packs would violate a law that regulates the tobacco industry. (
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Philippine Star - Tobacco Reporter, 5/25/2010.)
In the Philippines June is annually observed as 'No Smoking' Month.
References: Tobacco firms told to print pics of smoking illnesses, abs-cbnNEWS.com, 5/24/2010; DOH ISSUES ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER No. 2010-0013 REQUIRING GRAPHIC HEALTH INFORMATION ON TOBACCO PACKAGING, Press Release, Department of Health, Republic of the Philippines, 5/24/2010; Noynoy won't quit smoking by Aurea Calica and Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star, 5/25/2010; Rotting teeth on cigarette packs? Health dep’t pushes picture warnings by Lilita Balane, abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak, 5/25/2010.
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