3 March 2018:
Tobacco control advocates have called on the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that tobacco products would be showing new graphic health warnings on the negative effects of smoking by March 3.
The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) and HealthJustice Philippines said tobacco companies should communicate the new graphic health warnings, which are only valid for two years.
“There should be no excuse for tobacco companies not to comply with this. We call on the DOH to ensure that all tobacco products carry the new set of warnings it prescribed,” said Ulysses Dorotheo, Seatca’s director for framework convention for tobacco control.
“The Bureau of Internal Revenue should ensure that excise tax stamps are affixed only to tobacco products with the new warnings,” he said, adding that violators should be fined or prosecuted.
Under Republic Act No. 10643, or the graphic health warnings law, the first set of graphic health warnings were issued and enforced by the DOH on March 3, 2016, and would be valid for two years.
The warning labels—which come with photos of patients suffering severely from diseases traced to smoking, or that of their affected body parts—alert consumers to the harmful effects of the vice.
The graphic health warnings are supposed to be changed periodically so the public would not be accustomed to seeing the same images.
In August last year, the DOH issued templates for the graphic health warnings on tobacco products, illustrating the illnesses associated with tobacco use, particularly, gangrene, asthma, emphysema, mouth cancer, neck cancer, premature birth, still birth, stroke and throat cancer.
Last year, the DOH issued a second set of graphic health warning templates to replace the first set.
This means all tobacco products made in the Philippines or imported into the country are required to carry the new graphic health warnings.
“It is important that health warnings and images are changed after a certain period to enhance and maintain the maximum impact over time,” Dorotheo said.
The warnings are designed to decrease the attractiveness and appeal of cigarettes, countering the persuasive images that tobacco companies use to promote their products.
HealthJustice Philippines urged the public to watch out for the new set of graphic health warnings on tobacco products to help in monitoring the compliance of tobacco companies.
Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, HealthJustice president, said the Philippines, as a party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, was duty-bound to implement rotating graphic health warnings on tobacco products.
Under RA 10643, each instance of import and export of noncompliant tobacco products will constitute one offense, with a P100,000 fine each day of violation.
Sellers of tobacco products who sell noncompliant products will be meted fines ranging from P10,000 to P100,000 and sentenced to a one-year prison term.
Cigarette makers, importers and distributors who display tobacco materials that do not have graphic health warnings will get a two-year-prison term and meted fines ranging from P500,000 to P2,000,000.