MANILA, Philippines – Cigarette packs with graphic health warnings (GHWs) are expected to be available in the market by June.
Emer Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), a cancer prevention, persons with disabilities and tobacco control advocacy group, yesterday expressed optimism that old cigarette packs would have been consumed and replaced by new ones with GHWs within two to three months.
Under Republic Act 10643, or the GHW Law which took effect yesterday, no tobacco product shall be manufactured without GHWs one year after the Department of Health issued the templates to be used.
However, the law also provides an additional eight-month period for tobacco firms and retailers to exhaust old stocks that bear text-only warnings.
By Nov. 4, all tobacco product packages sold and distributed in the country must have the prescribed GHWs.
Rojas said tobacco manufacturers are not likely to wait until November to market their products bearing new packaging.
“We should expect cigarette packs with GHWs in the market in two to three months because of the product’s shelf life. It cannot last for more than two to three months in retail as these will already be considered old by smokers,” Rojas said.
Meanwhile, anti-smoking advocates said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) should start ensuring that tobacco manufacturers follow RA 10643.
“Every single pack should be looked into by the BIR to make sure that they comply with the GHW Law and its implementing rules and regulations,” said Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance senior technical officer Rommel Arriola.
Health justice legal consultant Patricia Miranda stressed the need for the BIR to be vigilant on the packaging of cigarettes coming out of warehouses.
The BIR could monitor the industry’s compliance when it affixes excise tax stamps on the packages.
Under the law, GHWs shall be printed on 50 percent of the principal display surfaces of any tobacco package by occupying 50 percent of the front and 50 percent of the back panel of the packaging.
The 12 templates that will be printed in the cigarette packs released by the health department include 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.