Health advocates said yesterday that a decline in the number of smoking-related deaths in the country will be seen when cigarette packs with graphic health warnings reach the market.
“Scary pictures can effectively convey the message that tobacco is a hazardous product, without having to calibrate or massage the message so that the public will understand the warning,” Patricia B. Miranda, representative of health think tank HealthJustice Philippines, said.
According to the ASEAN Tobacco Control Atlas 2013, the Philippines ranks second in Asia in tobacco use, with 240 tobacco-related deaths each day. Tobacco-control supporters are confident that once the picture warnings are in place, the country will see a decline in these numbers.
“The Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law is a big leap forward for the Philippines. There is a rapidly growing global consensus that pictures are more effective at communicating health messages and discouraging tobacco use than text only warnings,” Miranda said.
Studies have revealed that picture warnings on packs have a “strong impact on educating the public about the harm of smoking, motivating smokers to quit, and counteracting misleading tobacco messaging,”she added.
“As supported by the findings of a 2013 study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, the greater impact of graphic health warnings compared to text-only warnings is consistent across diverse racial/ethnic and socio-economic populations.”
At least 77 countries have enacted laws and policies requiring graphic health warnings labels on tobacco packs, Miranda said.
“The text-only health warnings prescribed by RA 9211 (An Act Regulating the Packaging, Use, Sale, Distribution, and Advertisements of Tobacco Products and for Other Purposes) do not satisfy the right to information. Under RA 9211, the text-only warnings are to be in either English or Filipino. However, as we all know, the four text warnings that are currently placed on cigarette packs are all in English and have not been updated for more than a decade. This already excludes portions of the Philippine population that cannot speak or comprehend messages in English,” th Health Justice representative said.
President Aquino signed the GHW Law last July, 2014. On October 28, 2014, the Department of Health issued Administrative Order No. 2014-0037, which includes 12 templates that shall be used by tobacco companies in cigarette packages.
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) President Emer Rojas said the release of the guidelines and templates is a “laudable” move by DOH.
“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.
Among 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.
Moreover, as according to the DOH administrative order, the graphic warnings shall occupy 50 percent of the front and 50 percent of the back panel of the packaging.
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