Graphic warnings on cigarette packs due

Warning texts along with graphic images should be printed on the labels of all tobacco products by Nov. 5, in compliance with the Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law, health groups reminded the government and the public over the weekend.

Sections 6 and 15 of the GHW Law, or Republic Act No. 10643, give tobacco manufacturers no more than one year from the issuance of the initial set of templates to comply with the printing requirements, Irene Reyes, managing director of the public health policy think tank HealthJustice, said in a statement.

The statement was issued jointly by HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) and New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP).

Reyes said the Department of Health published the templates in November last year.

Under RA 10643, which was signed into law by President Aquino in 2014, all tobacco products in the Philippines are expected to have a photographic warning accompanied by text printed on 50 percent of principal display surfaces, such as the front and back of cigarette packs.

The law also prohibits the use of “misleading” terms such as “light,” “mild,” “low tar” or such words that tend to convey that a particular variant is less harmful.

“The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), to which the Philippines is a party, mandates governments, within three years of entry into the agreement, to pass and implement a law requiring tobacco products to carry effective health warnings,” Reyes said.

7 years late

She said the deadline for the Philippines came in September 2008, which means the country is seven years late in fulfilling its obligation.

Emer Rojas, Global Cancer ambassador and president of NVAP, a group of cancer survivors and persons with disabilities advocating for tobacco control, said that a “longer delay would mean thousands of Filipinos dying from tobacco use without ever seeing the warnings that show the real and dreadful harms of smoking.”

NVAP staged a hundred-strong “Right to Health Walk” from Philcoa to the Commission on Human Rights in September to raise public awareness about the requirement for GHW-compliant tobacco packs by November.

Large graphic health warnings are effective and are being used all over the world, according to Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, program director of Seatca, a multisectoral alliance supporting tobacco regulation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region.

“This measure will counter the tobacco industry’s efforts to glamorize smoking and thus deceive the public and brainwash the youth into thinking that smoking is not harmful,” he said.

According to the International Status Report on Cigarette Package Health Warnings released by the Canadian Cancer Society in September 2014, at least 77 countries or jurisdictions have finalized graphic health warning requirements.

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