Former smokers back revival of bills on tobacco packaging

A GROUP of throat cancer survivors on Sunday urged legislators to strengthen tobacco control measures by reviving bills that require graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and other related bills that were not passed during the 15th Congress.


Mr. Emer Rojas, NAPC People With Disabilities sector representative, discusses issues to DILG secretary and former senator Mar Roxas during the NAPC pre enbanc meeting at the Cocoon Boutique Hotel on July 11, 2013.(Photo credit: New Vois Assn, Philippines)

“As Congress opens for session in a few days, we call on our leaders to strengthen their commitment to public health. We have shown in the past that despite a strong opposition from big tobacco we were able to push for increases in the “sin” tax. We can do it again by pressing for graphic health warnings,” Emer Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) and Global Cancer ambassador, said in a statement.

Rojas, who speaks through an electronic “voice box” after contracting laryngeal cancer through smoking, particularly cited the bill that NVAP is supporting—Senate Bill 27—that was refiled by Sen. Pia Cayetano in the 16th Congress.

The bill calls for the placement of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs as a way to raise public awareness on the dangers of smoking. In a separate statement, Cayetano, also chairman of the Senate health committee, blamed the tobacco industry for the failed passage of two other picture‐based warning bills that she authored in the past.

Rojas said the government should follow up on the success of the passage of the sin-tax law and urged legislators to refile tobacco control and anti-smoking bills that did not make it during the 15th Congress.

The Bangkok‐based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) identified the Philippines as one of four Association of Southeast Asian Nations members that have yet to require graphic warnings.

The World Health Organization supports higher taxes and picture‐based health warnings as two of six measures that can effectively curb smoking, that is blamed for an estimated six million deaths every year.

“In the Philippines 10 people die every hour because of smoking. It’s not enough that we raise taxes because smokers only turn to cheaper brands. We need to educate them by presenting them pictures that will discourage smoking. Pictures save lives,” Rojas said, adding that countries that imposed higher levies on tobacco products coupled with graphic health warnings have seen a significant decline in their smoking population.

Rojas said poor and illiterate smokers, who comprise the most number of tobacco consumers in the country, could benefit well from picture‐based warnings as a tool for raising awareness. He however added that this is only possible through legislation.

The latest WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic shows the importance of legislation as it also reveals that more than 2.3 billion people, or a third of the world population living in 92 countries, are now covered by a tobacco‐control measure at the highest level.

The figure represents an increase of about 1.3 billion people and 48 countries during the past five years since the release of the first report.

(Claudeth Mocon/Correspondent, Business Mirror, article from here:


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