12 February 2016:
Bangkok, 12 February 2016: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) congratulates the Philippines for becoming the seventh ASEAN country to implement graphic health warnings on tobacco product packaging to effectively warn the public on the harms of tobacco use.
As a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the Philippines is required to implement effective packaging and labeling measures for tobacco products within three years of ratification. The country’s September 2008 deadline lapsed because of tobacco industry opposition to congressional bills at that time.
Yesterday’s publication of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law is therefore a significant milestone. The IRR details the rules on textual and graphic health warnings on tobacco products, as well as the corresponding penalties for violations.
From 3 March 2016, tobacco manufacturers and importers cannot release tobacco packs without GHWs, after which retailers have 8 months, which is more than ample time, to remove all non-compliant tobacco product packs from display and from the market. By 4 November 2016, all packs for sale must have GHW or they will be subject to confiscation, fines, or criminal prosecution.
“Every year, Filipino families suffer at least 87,000 preventable deaths from smoking-caused diseases. Many of those addicted to tobacco come from the poorest of the poor. The Philippine government should be commended, because every single day of delay in the GHW implementation means that everyday 17 million adult smokers in the Philippines are denied information on the true effects of smoking and the opportunity to quit,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, SEATCA’s FCTC Program Director.
“Given the socio-economic profile of the Philippines, graphic health warnings are the most cost-effective means to inform smokers and non-smokers about the health hazards of smoking, to encourage quit attempts and to discourage smoking initiation. Graphic warnings also decrease the attractiveness and appeal of cigarettes and counter the alluring and persuasive images that tobacco companies use to promote their products,” Dr. Dorotheo added.
The Philippines joins Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia in the Southeast Asian region with graphic health warnings on tobacco products. Cambodia has passed a Sub Decree on graphic warnings that will be effective in July this year, while health-warning policies in Lao PDR and Myanmar have been delayed because of interference from the tobacco industry.
Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
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