MANILA, Philippines – Health advocates have started an online petition expressing support for the legislation that will require the incorporation of graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging in the country.
“As advocates for public health and social justice, let us all support Senate Bill 27 of Sen. Pia Cayetano and call on other lawmakers to defend her version of the bill during the bicameral conference committee meeting that could be scheduled as early as next week,” read the petition filed by non-government organization Health Justice Philippines in platform Change.org.
“Please ensure that the Department of Health provides picture-based health warnings on at least 50 percent of the TOP of cigarette packs,” it added.
More than 1,300 people have supported the petition as of yesterday.
The petition also said that the tobacco industry has proposed that “small warnings be placed at the bottom of cigarette packs, and have demanded to participate in the implementation of this new law through the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco.”
But neighboring countries are already requiring graphic warnings on 50 to 75 percent of the cigarette packaging. These include Brunei (75 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs); Thailand (55 percent front and back); Malaysia (50 percent front and 60 percent back); and Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong (50 percent front and back).
These countries do not also allow the tobacco industry to participate in implementing their health laws, the petition said.
“Let us all together urgently call on our legislators to affirm the Philippine commitment to protect and promote the fundamental rights to health and life and to reject the tobacco industry’s unreasonable proposals,” it added.
The New Vois Association of the Philippines – a civil society organization formed to address cancer support and prevention, tobacco control advocacy and persons with disabilities issues – organized on Friday the “Right to Health Walk” in Quezon City to urge lawmakers to support the passage of the bill.
Earlier, Cayetano expressed optimism that the Senate would approve the measure.
“After accommodating several amendments last week, we are looking forward to the bill’s passage on second reading in the first week of June, and possibly, on third and final reading before session adjourns on June 11,” she was quoted as saying in an earlier report.