Court stops graphic warning on tobacco packs, 07/07/10

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health’s (DoH) anti-smoking campaign was dealt a big blow as leading cigarette maker Fortune Tobacco has obtained temporary relief from the implementation of a department order imposing graphic warning on cigarette packs.

Fortune Tobacco and the entire local tobacco industry gained the upper hand in its ongoing feud with anti-smoking advocates led by the DoH.

Judge Felix Reyes of the Marikina City Regional Trial Court granted Fortune Tobacco’s petition on Tuesday, upon posting a bond of P5 million.

The decision, issued last July 1, was assailed by anti-smoking groups.

It barred the DoH from requiring tobacco companies to print in tobacco packs, pictures showing diseases acquired from smoking and other health risks.

DoH legal counsel, Jose Antonio Blanco of the Office of the Solicitor General said the decision will be challenged, and he will question the filing of the petition in Marikina, where Fortune Tobacco’s manufacturing plant is located.

New Vois Association Philippines, a support group for laryngeal cancer patients, said Reyes did not consider the public interest nature of the case.

“Othwerwise, he would have realized that the Filipinos’ right to health prevails over Fortune’s commercial interests,” New Vois head Emer Rojas said.

The graphic warnings said anti-smoking groups, aim to curb the tobacco epidemic in the country by showing the public the consequences of smoking.

The country loses about P200 billion annually to treat tobacco-related diseases.

Graphic health warnings are known to be effective in countries with tobacco controls in place like the US, Canada and Thailand.

Previously, Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla said that tobacco companies in the country have already been producing cigarette packs with such graphic warnings for export.

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