Health advocates slam CA ruling on tobacco ads, 24/09/11

ANTI-SMOKING groups said they were “aghast” over a recent Court of Appeals decision that nullified a Department of Health resolution prohibiting the tobacco industry from promoting their products.

The decision was the result of an appeal filed by Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc. (PMPMI) and Fortune Tobacco Corp. Both companies alleged the Department of Health (DOH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of committing grave abuse of discretion when it disallowed promotions, advertisements, and sponsorships of tobacco products.

The appeals court said that while it is “…not oblivious of the desire of the people to live a healthy life and in a healthy environment, it also recognizes the contribution of the tobacco industry to the advancement of the country’s economy.”

This, in turn, has prompted HealthJustice to ask whether the health of Filipinos “is not as worthy an investment as trade, if not more?”

“I am positively enraged by how this industry consistently undermines public health and how we let them,” lawyer Ipat Luna of HealthJustice, a public health law non-government organization, said.

On average, the tobacco industry contributes P31.6 billion through excise taxes each year.

However, the group said this amount pales in comparison to the estimated P218 billion to P 461 billion losses a year due to medical expenses and lost working time caused by smoking-related diseases, based on a study conducted by the University of the Philippines, the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Under Section 22 of Republic Act 9211 or Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, tobacco ads are banned in mass media, “except tobacco advertisements placed inside the premises of point-of-sale establishments.”

This provision helped the cigarette industry win the case at the appellate court.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obliges the Philippines to undertake a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship within five years after the treaty’s entry into force in the country.

The Philippines’ deadline expired over a year ago.

In a recent Country Profiling report on non-communicable diseases done by the WHO, the Philippines got a score of 0 out 5 in implementing the required and necessary tobacco control measures at the highest level of achievement.

WHO estimates that 10 Filipinos die by the hour due to tobacco-related diseases.

Seven out of the 10 primary causes of death in the country–stroke, cancer, heart attacks, tuberculosis, chronic lower respiratory disease, pneumonia, and diseases that occur around childbirth–are tobacco-related diseases. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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