The New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) immediately welcomed the much-awaited release of the templates that will be used as graphic health warnings (GHW) in cigarette packs.
According to NVAP President Emer Rojas, it is a laudable move by the Department of Health (DOH) to come out with Administrative Order No. 2014 – 0037 several months after Republic Act 10643 or the GHW Law was signed by President Benigno Aquino III.
“We, victims of tobacco, laud the release of the guidelines and templates since research shows that GHWs are found to be effective in preventing would-be smokers, especially among the youth and women, from starting the addiction. Definitely, graphic health warnings save lives,” said Rojas.
On October 28, 2014, the DOH issued AO 2014-0037, which includes the 12 templates that shall be used by tobacco companies in their cigarette packages in compliance to the GHW law.
Included in the templates are images of people suffering from stroke, emphysema, mouth cancer, gangrene, impotence, throat cancer, neck cancer, as well as premature birth and low birth-weight of babies of smoking mothers.
One of the templates to be used show Rojas himself since the NVAP head is a stage-4 throat cancer survivor and can now only communicate through an assistive voice device called electrolarynx, which produces a robot-like sound when he talks.
These images shall be printed simultaneously and rotated periodically for each brand family and variants on equal frequency.
With the release of AO 2014-0037, tobacco manufacturers are given a period of one year to comply with the GHW law.
Aside from the 12 months, RA10643 provides that an additional eight months are being given to retailers to exhaust the old stocks in the market which do not have picture warnings.
“This means that we can already expect seeing these proven effective life-savers in the market this time next year,” said Rojas.
The Philippine Senate ratified the WHO – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Spetember 2005, which obliges the government to enact measures that will help curb and reduce tobacco use; and warn the people of the health consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, among others.
Despite the release of the templates, Rojas said there is no reason for the health advocates and the government to sit on their laurels and just wait for the compliance of tobacco manufacturers.
“There is a need to safeguard and protect the gains of the GHW law as well as maintain the awareness and interest among the people on the importance of the law,” he said.
To do so, Rojas said there is a need to raise the awareness and hold information campaigns in schools and public places such as sari-sari stores.
“We are hoping that the DOH and other concerned government agencies shall initiate such move all over the country. That way we extend the effectiveness of the cigarette packs with GHW pictures even before they will be out in the market,” said Rojas. ###