Gov’t issues graphic-warning regulations for tobacco products

THE GOVERNMENT has published the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on cigarette health warnings, signaling the start of graphic depictions of smoking hazards on tobacco products. 

On Thursday, the IRR for Republic Act No. 10643 — otherwise known as the Graphic Health Warnings Law — was published in the Philippine Star, after the law was enacted in July 2014.

The IRR details the rules on textual and graphic health warnings on tobacco products, as well as the corresponding penalties for violations.

It defined the space requirements for graphic health warnings, including photographic images on packaging and warnings in text.

“The text warning accompanying the photographic picture warning shall be worded in such manner that an ordinary layman will understand what the picture is about and what the ill-effects of smoking are on the health of the smoker and on the people around him,” according to the general provisions governing graphic health warnings.

“The accompanying text shall be printed in Filipino on the front panel and English on the back panel. In the case of containers where there is only one external surface area, the accompanying text will alternately be in English or Filipino,” it added.

Graphic health warnings are required to take up at least 50% and be prominently carried on the product’s principal display surface while a 30% space allotment on the side of the product package is also required to contain additional warnings on the dangers of smoking.

“The additional information on the side panels of the tobacco product packaging must be prominently displayed and the text thereto shall appear in clearly legible type and in contrast by typograph, layout and color, without the use of border or frame and any other design that will effectively lessen the size of the additional health warning,” the IRR read.

At most, 12 templates of graphic health warnings on tobacco products for each brand family and brand variant shall be rotated for a period of two years.

The IRR also imposed a ban on what are considered as ‘misleading descriptors,’ disallowing tobacco products from using descriptor terms — such as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra-light,” “mild,” “extra.”

Manufacturers, importers and distributors that violate the IRR will be fined a maximum of P500,000 for a first offense and up to P1 million for a second offense. Imprisonment of up to five years kicks in on the third offense as well as a fine of up to P2 million. Third-time offenders are also liable for revocation of their business permits.

Retailers and their agents found in violation of the IRR, including the display or sale of non-compliant tobacco products, face a penalty of up to P10,000 on the first offense. Penalties escalate to up to P50,000 for a second offense and up to P100,000, imprisonment of up to one year, and business permit revocation for third-time offenders. — Alden M. Monzon


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