Philippines - DoH pushes for picture warnings on cigarette packs..

Philippines Dept. of Health..
April 7, 2010 - In countries like Thailand, Brazil and Canada, graphic “picture-based health warnings” on cigarette packs have increased public knowledge on the ill-effects of smoking, as well as motivated an undisclosed number of smokers to quit the habit. (Graphic Warnings cigarette packs: Canada revising warnings, U.S. pictorial warnings within 4-years..)

The Philippines the Department of Health (DoH) has expressed confidence that the government could do the same by requiring tobacco firms to print similar warnings on cigarette packs sold to the public. DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Tuesday, April 6th told the INQUIRER they were “crafting an administrative order” covering such warnings against tobacco use.

The directive is “in accordance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” or FCTC, which was signed in 2003 by over 160 countries, including the Philippines.
The FCTC “has been ratified (by the Senate) and is now part of the law of the land,” Cabral noted.

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)

Like Cabral, both the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP) strongly believe picture-based health warnings would be a “more effective strategy” over text warnings against tobacco use.

Dr. Sylvia Banal-Yang, PCCP president, told a recent health forum “a picture speaks a thousand words. When smokers see what tobacco use could do to their health, then they will have second thoughts about buying cigarettes again.” For her part, FCAP executive director Maricar Limpin said such warnings printed on cigarette packs would most likely “convince the smoking public, especially the youth, that smoking is really bad for the health.”

Cigarette smoking is one of the lung health issues cited in Proclamation No. 2001, issued recently by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, declaring 2010 as the “Year of the Lung.” In her directive, Arroyo stressed the need for “preventive measures through a more intensified advocacy campaign and effective strategies to curb the epidemic causing serious and debilitating lung disorders.”

According to Cabral, the DOH would “continue our advocacy against cigarette smoking.”
Aside from the imposition of higher taxes on cigarettes, among other “sin products,” both the PCCP and FCAP favor a total ban on tobacco use in the country.

Cabral, however, said otherwise. “It impinges on the rights of human beings to choose to die or not to die from diseases caused by smoking. All we can do is tell them the facts and this is what we would do if we were you and we hope you'll do the same thing,” she explained.

Reference: DoH pushes for picture warnings on cigarette packs by Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4/6/2010.

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