Written by Abby Gayle Abbu
Philippine health experts on Tuesday insist on making the health-warning label as large as possible on cigarette packs.
“The direction of the Department of Health is the bigger the size of the warning, the better,” DOH Representative Ivanhoe Escartin said.
“It is important that the warning is bigger because if you look at the pack of the cigarette, it is almost the last time that the person will have to decide whether he wants to smoke or not,” he added.
Escartin is a supporter of the graphic health warning (GHW) on tobacco products, bill filed in Congress which seeks to stop the smoker from smoking and for the young to be aware not to start the smoking habit.
Advocate Ipat Luna said there is no other country and region that has the warning on the bottom where it can be easily hidden or covered when held.
Luna, a lawyer and trustee of HealthJustice Philippines, spoke at a news conference with Escartin.
The experts added that proper agencies should have the authority in implementing the proposed measures for GHW bill in accordance with Republic Act 9711, in response to the House version of the bill which mandates the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) as the implementing body.
This is a view shared by Emilio Polig, chief of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Legal Department, the implementation of the proposed measure should be vested with the DOH and FDA, he said.
“As long as the IAC-T is anywhere near this law or anywhere near the implementation, it will be sabotaged,” Luna said.
She added if the IAC-T gets their hands on any part of the implementation, their motive is less than what is necessary to protect public health.
The news conference was convened in response to the news that both houses of Congress will hold a bicameral conference committee meeting on the GHW bill.
The Senate version of the GHW covers at least 50 percent of the cigarette packs and has clause that will allow the DOH, as the implementing body, to transfer the location of the picture to the top of the pack. The lower House version covers 40 percent of the bottom of cigarette packs, with the IAC-T as implementing body.
Former Health Secretary Jimmy Galvez-Tan stated that almost 90,000 Filipinos die annually due to smoking-related diseases. He stated that the Senate version of the GHW bill correctly mandates the DOH to be the implementing body.