Secretary Esperanza Cabral’s recent announcement of a Department of Health (DOH) initiative compelling cigarette manufacturers to implement picture warnings on cigarette packs is a significant step in the country’s compliance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), according to experts.
The announcement was made during a news conference on March 5, 2010 in line with Proclamation No. 2001 declaring 2010 as the Year of the Lung.
Dean Marvic Leonen of the University of the Philippines College of Law, a constitutional law expert, states that, “The DOH’s authority to undertake the initiative is firmly grounded on the Constitution which specifically mandates the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them. Its authority likewise finds basis under the Administrative Code of 1987. More importantly, it is a significant step in the country’s compliance with the FCTC.
“FCTC is the first public health treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO). The President signed the FCTC on September 23, 2003 and the Senate’s concurrence to the treaty was obtained on April 25, 2005.
“Having been ratified by the President and concurred in by the Senate in compliance with the Philippine Constitution, the FCTC is now part of the law of the land. As a State Party to the FCTC, the Philippines is duty-bound to comply with FCTC provisions in good faith”, he adds.
Article 5.2 (b) of the FCTC provides that parties shall adopt and implement effective, executive, administrative and/or other measures for preventing and reducing tobacco consumption, nicotine addiction and exposure to tobacco smoke.
FCTC’s Article 11 enjoins the parties, three years after the treaty’s entry into force, to adopt and implement effective measures to ensure that tobacco product packaging and labelling carry large, rotating health warnings and do not promote tobacco products by false, misleading or deceptive means.
Speaking for Tobacco Free Philippines and Health Justice, Dr. Daniel Tan says that it is about time that the DOH step up and work on this initiative. He cites studies from Singapore and Thailand that confirm the effectiveness of graphic health warnings compared to text warnings.
“Graphic or picture warnings are more noticeable, and communicate the messages better because people actually understand them. In Singapore, for example, 71percent said they knew more about the health effects of smoking as a result of the pictorial health warnings.”