Tighter regulation of tobacco, cigarette manufacturing approved, 16/03/11

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Health is tightening its grip on tobacco use through the newly approved implementing rules and regulations of a law that gave more teeth to its regulatory arm, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a briefing on Monday, FDA director Dr. Suzette Lazo announced the recent approval of the IRR of the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, which gave the agency the power to regulate tobacco products in the country, among other supplementary mandates.

“We did not regulate tobacco before but because of the health implications of tobacco use and because the DoH has the responsibility to safeguard public health and make its effects preventable, it (the DoH) is going to do this through the FDA,” said Lazo.

With the new mandate, the FDA could examine the nicotine levels or any substance in cigarettes that pushed “people to smoke more,” she said, adding that the agency would reinforce its partnership with other agencies, including the US-FDA to regulate tobacco use.

It will also strictly implement an administrative order requiring graphic health warnings on all cigarette packs distributed in the country once it has hurdled legal battles it was currently facing.

The use of graphic warning signs has been provided for under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which the Philippines is a signatory.

But several tobacco manufacturers sued the DoH, questioning the validity of the administrative order.

Aside from its mandate to regulate tobacco use, the FDA has also been empowered to seize and hold in custody without court order food, cosmetic products and pharmaceutical items found to be violating existing rules and regulations and those deemed unsafe for public consumption.

The enhanced IRR also allows the FDA director to hold in contempt any person who ignores orders and writs issued by the agency. This would provide an effective deterrent to prohibited acts defined in the laws the agency has been tasked to implement, said Lazo.

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