PHL joining international health conference in Moscow to discuss legal liability of tobacco firms

October 14, 2014 6:09 am 

By Lady Marie Dela Torre

MANILA, Oct. 13 (PNA) — Around 1,500 representatives from 195 countries, including the Philippines, gather in an international health conference in Moscow from Oct. 13 to 18 to discuss liability of tobacco firms.

The issue of making tobacco companies liable for the millions of diseases, premature deaths and humongous socio-economic burden caused by smoking will form part of the discussions at the 6th Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and CEO Alexander Padilla heads the Philippine delegation. He will be joined by other government representatives and some members of civil society groups that include New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP).

Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, chair of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) and project director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), said the conference will discuss the report of an experts group on Article 19 of the FCTC.

Article 19 of the FCTC, an international treaty that promotes public health through tobacco control, encourages parties to consider actions to deal with tobacco firms’ “criminal and civil liability, including compensation where appropriate.”

“As the tobacco industry uses different tactics at circumventing and undermining laws, it is important to see the potential of implementing Article 19 because of its various benefits like compensation for victims, forcing the industry to disclose internal information, and preventing further abuses in the future,” Dorotheo said in a statement.

Emer Rojas, president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), said it is high time to make the industry accountable for the harmful effects of smoking on public health and for its continued wanton disregard of tobacco-control laws.

Prior to the enactment last July of a Philippine law on graphic health warnings, tobacco companies had challenged the Department of Health (DOH) in court on this same issue.

“It is ironic that when the Department of Health had issued an executive order in 2010 mandating tobacco firms to place graphic health warnings on cigarette packages, the industry was quick to sue the government in five separate courts, alleging the DOH has no jurisdiction to do so. If there is anyone who should go and seek redress from the courts, it is the victims of smoking and their families, not the tobacco industry that is earning billions of pesos at the expense of making our people sick from nicotine addiction,” said Rojas.

Considered as one of the biggest public health threats in the world, tobacco use kills an estimated six million people globally. In the Philippines, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest tobacco users, 10 Filipinos die every hour due to smoking-related diseases. (PNA)