Following the publication of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 10643, otherwise known as the Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law, tobacco control civil society organizations today have joined together to strongly urge tobacco companies to strictly comply with the law.
These included the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP), HealthJustice Philippines, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).
FCAP Senior Technical Officer Rommel Arriola said “Ten Filipinos die every hour because of tobacco-related illnesses. These GHWs will help lower this statistic by encouraging smokers to quit, and at the same time discouraging non-smokers, especially the youth, from being hooked by this lethal addiction.”
NVAP President and Global Cancer Ambassador Engr. Emer Rojas added “The GHW Law will help reduce the number of victims of tobacco like us as pictures on packs are the most effective means of showing the harms brought about by tobacco abuse causing premature death and diseases including cancer.”
Meanwhile, HealthJustice Managing Director Atty. Irene Reyes stressed “With the recent release of implementing rules and regulations of the GHW Law, tobacco companies are left with no excuse but to comply with the law by today’s March 3, 2016 deadline.”
According to SEATCA’s FCTC Program Director Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, “The 12-month grace period given to the tobacco industry to print graphic health warnings is very much longer than what’s been required in other countries that have even bigger GHWs, such as Nepal (90%), Thailand (85%), Uruguay (80%), and Brunei and Canada (75%), which all gave the industry only 6 months or less to comply. Sri Lanka (80%) and Jamaica (60%) gave the industry as short as three months to comply. The tobacco industry should have no excuse to delay implementation.”
These tobacco control civil society organizations also reminded tobacco companies that they will continue to be vigilant on the implementation of the GHW law and for any deliberate attempt to circumvent the same, noting that tobacco companies had made numerous attempts to water down the GHW Law while it was still being deliberated in Congress.
The March 3 deadline comes one year after the Department of Health (DOH) issued the templates to be printed on cigarette packs. These templates comprise of realistic depictions of the ill-effects of smoking such as mouth and neck cancer, stroke, and impotence.
The law also provides an additional eight-month period for tobacco firms and retailers to exhaust old stocks that do not comply with the GHW law. By November 2016, all tobacco product packages sold and distributed in the country must have the prescribed graphic health warnings.
Early this week, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Vital Strategies, and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance sent a letter to DOH Sec. Janette Garin commending the Philippines for implementing the GHW law.