Written by Alvin Murcia
Health advocates have joined forces to oust tobacco representative from the regulation committee so they can’t meddle with decision about cigarette policies of the government.
The move to oust Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), an umbrella organization of cigarette companies from the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IACT) is being pushed by Ang Nars partylist, Healthjustice and One for Nursing Empowerment.
According to the group, the IACT is the one mandated by the Tobacco Control Regulation Act of 2003 or RA 9211 to implement tobacco control measures in the country.
Rep. Leah Paquiz, of Ang Nars partylist, told reporters at the Balitaan sa Hotel Rembrandt that the presence of PTI into the IACT is questionable.
She said one cannot be the regulator and the regulate at the same time, pointing to PTI’s presence before the government tobacco regulatory body.
The partylist representative said there is a loophole in the law as it allows the tobacco industry to sit in a committee that seeks to regulate them.
Because of the perceived loophole in the law Paquiz disclosed that she filed a bill to remove PTI from a position where they could influence health policy-making and law implementation.
RA 9211 includes provisions prohibiting smoking in certain areas such as schools, playgrounds and other centers of youth activity, banning the sale and distribution of cigarettes to minors, banning outdoor tobacco advertisements and restricting promotions and sponsorships.
For her part, lawyer Patty Miranda, legal of Healthjustice, said tobacco companies through the PTI will always push their agenda even if it means more Filipinos die from death and disease caused by tobacco use.
With this, their group wanted to eliminate the main venue that enable tobacco manufacturers to exert its commercial and vested interests through its participation in the government’s administration and implementation of tobacco control measures.
Miranda said that in 2011, PTI filed an action in the Las Pinas Regional Trial Court requesting the court to set aside the implementing Rules and Regulations of the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, which gave the FDA authority to monitor and regulate tobacco products.
According to Dexter Galban, founrde of the youth group One for Nursing Empowerment, cigarette companies are targeting the youth and that the government should protect their right to health.
He said the youth sector is being viewed by cigarette companies as an impressionable demographic that can easily be wooed to become replacement smokers.
Galban added that if tobacco control laws are not implemented properly cigarette companies will continue having access to effective marketing strategies that can entice people to get addicted to a deadly addiction.