July 7, 2010 - The tobacco industry has obtained temporary relief from the implementation of a Department of Health (DoH) order imposing graphic warning on cigarette packs. Jose Antonio Blanco of the Office of the Solicitor General said that the decision issued last July 1 barred the Health department from implementing Administrative Order 13, which required the printing of pictures showing diseases acquired from smoking in addition to the existing health risk information.
The order, issued last May 24, also prohibited the use of descriptors in cigarette products such as "light" and "mild."
Background:Fortune Tobacco Corp., one of the two major local tobacco companies, has challenged the order before the sala of Judge Felix P. Reyes of Marikina Regional Trial Court Branch 272 before its implementation. It filed last June 3 a petition for declaratory relief with the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction against the directive.
April 6, 2010 - The Philippines Department of Health (DoH) has expressed confidence that the government could require tobacco firms to place pictorial warnings on cigarette packs sold to the public. DoH was “crafting an administrative order” covering such warnings against tobacco use. (Philippines - DoH pushes for picture warnings on cigarette packs..)
May 24, 2010 - The Department of Health (DoH) 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. (Philippines - Department of Health wants health warnings on cigarette packs within 90 days..)
June 3, 2010 - June 4, 2010 - 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.
In granting the petition, Mr. Reyes required Fortune Tobacco to post a bond of P5 million (107,596.30 USD). The P5 million is to answer for any damage that the DoH may incur if it is later proven that Fortune Tobacco [will not be hurt] by the administrative order," Mr. Blanco, who served as DoH counsel during the court hearings, said in a phone interview. Mr. Blanco said "we will assail [to attack with arguments, criticism]" the court decision.
For her part, Dr. Maricar B. Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Alliance Philippines (FCAP), said the court had given "more leeway to lure more people to smoke." "This is not for the people," she said in a separate interview.
FCAP is a member of the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco created to administer Republic Act 9211 or the Comprehensive Tobacco Regulation Act, which advocates tobacco control, and a smoke-free society. The World Health Organization (WHO) and DoH are among FCAP’s partners.
Reference: Cigarette pack graphic labeling halted, Prinz P. Magtulis, BusinessWorld, 7/8/2010.
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