June 4, 2010 - On Thursday, June 3rd the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) said an order requiring tobacco companies to print graphic health warnings on cigarette packs is contrary to law. Complying with the health department’s administrative order 2010-13 will be a violation of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act (TRA) of 2003, the group said in a statement. The law prohibits the printing of any other health warning on cigarette packs other than those specified by law, the group said.
Annex to Administrative Order..
The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday, May 24th 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. (Philippines - Department of Health wants health warnings on cigarette packs within 90 days..
The PTI is a group of local cigarette manufacturers which include the Philippines’ biggest tobacco firm, Lucio Tan’s Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corporation, and other corporations like the Anglo-American Tobacco Corporation, La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Manufacturing Inc., and Mighty Tobacco Corporation. (Philippines - PMI - FTC merger may lead smokers continuing to smoke and lure children into a life of nicotine addiction..)
“If AO 2010-13 is implemented, cigarette manufacturers, exporters, and importers will be violating the TRA, which has penal provisions that could land them in jail and be meted heavy fines," said the group, which includes Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corp., the Philippines’ largest cigarette firm. As a result, the PTI called on Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral to withdraw the said order, saying it is “defective" and “deplorable."
However, Cabral remained firm about implementing the administrative order this month, saying tobacco companies can easily alter product packaging since they provide similar packages to other countries. “These tobacco manufacturers are the ones who print and export packages with graphic warnings to other Asian countries. They can very well comply with the order," she said in a phone interview with GMANews.TV.
The health department has given tobacco companies enough time to change their current packages and even invited them to a dialogue before the order was released, she said. “We invited them, but nobody came except for one person," she said. The health secretary also said her administrative order does not violate any law, since RA 9211 only covers textual warnings.
The Philippines is one of the 168 signatories of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires parties to the convention to “implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labelling.”
IMAGE: Philippines is the first country known to require a breast cancer message on cigarette packages.
Reference: Graphic warnings on cigarette packs contrary to law, tobacco firms say, ANDREO C. CALONZO, GMANews.TV, 6/3/2010.
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