Ang Nars Rep. Leah Paquiz, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and HealthJustice urged government officials to protect tobacco control laws from tobacco companies’ efforts to weaken their implementation.
Atty. Patricia Miranda of HealthJustice, said’ “Passing the sin tax law and the graphic health warnings law is only the beginning. Tobacco companies have tried to block and weaken these laws during legislative deliberations and up to now continue to interfere with implementation.”
Rep. Leah Paquiz said, “In the case of the graphic health warning (GHW) bill, tobacco companies meddled to water down key provisions that were meant to save lives. I filed for graphic health warnings as big as 80% of cigarette packs. The Lower House version was reduced to only 40%. Fortunately, the version that was signed into law requires 50%, ensuring that Filipinos will have access to information about the harms of smoking.”
Aside from that, the law also assigned the Inter Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) created under RA 9211 to monitor implementation of the GHW law. Tobacco companies are members of the IAC-T and as such, can have some influence on how the law will be implemented.
Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo of SEATCA added, “Whether it’s sin tax or graphic health warnings, the strategy of tobacco companies is the same, they pretend and claim to be ‘stakeholders’ in order to interfere in the development and implementation of public health laws meant to regulate them. They should not be allowed to do this because their commercial and vested interests as an industry selling deadly products run counter to our government’s constitutional mandate to save and protect people’s lives.”
The issue of tobacco industry interference is a key issue that will be discussed in the upcoming global conference on tobacco control to be held in Moscow, Russia from October 13 to 18, 2014. This conference will be participated by Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC is a global health treaty to which there are 179 Parties, including the Philippines.
“We are hoping that the meeting of different countries to discuss the important issue of tobacco industry interference will help our government in protecting our public health laws. Let us keep in mind that our main goal for these laws is to save lives and business or trade interests should not be prioritized over the health and lives of Filipinos.” Atty. Miranda added.