Tobacco sector moving to delay health warnings law implementation–advocates

THE New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) criticized the tobacco industry for allegedly delaying the implementation of the graphic health warnings (GHW) law.

NVAP President Emer Rojas said the absence of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the law could not be used by the industry to file for injunction before the Supreme Court (SC) as the law was clear that it should take effect even without the IRR.

“The IRR is not a prerequisite for the law to take effect. Without it the law states that graphic health warnings should be seen on cigarette packages a year after the templates had been approved by the Department of Health,” Rojas argued.

Article 16 of Republic Act 10643 (GHW law) provides that “the non-issuance of the IRR shall not prevent the coming into force of this Act.”

Rojas made the statement to counter reports that the tobacco industry was poised to ask the Supreme Court to stop the law’s implementation on March 3 owing to the nonavailability of the IRR.

Approved in July 2014, the law states that graphic warnings should take effect one year after the DOH has approved the 12 templates that would be used on the packages.

While the DOH was mandated to release the templates more than a month after the law’s approval, it was only in March last year that it was able to do so.

In a media statement published recently, the tobacco industry said it was seeking the SC intervention arguing that the IRR is yet to be signed by all concerned department secretaries.

Aside from the DOH and the trade department, other government offices involved to draft and issue the IRR include the justice, finance, environment, science and technology, education, and agriculture departments and the National Tobacco Administration.

Rojas praise the DOH in its strong stand against the industry’s delaying tactics.

“The tobacco industry was given more time than it deserves to comply with the law when other nations have only allowed a couple of months for compliance. We are concerned that further delays would happen given the industry’s penchant for technicalities and given the ongoing campaign period,” Rojas said. Mocon-Ciriaco

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