Of the 17 million Filipino adults today that smoke, half will end up suffering or dying from tobacco-related diseases. It is currently estimated that 10 Filipinos are dying every hour due to diseases from tobacco products. Tobacco use is more than just personal choice, it is an addiction. An addiction peddled by the tobacco industry.
In the US, the Master Settlement Agreement resulted from the pursuit of liability actions by state governments against tobacco companies. This agreement revealed an immense number of internal tobacco industry documents which exposes wrongful industry conduct, including its concealment and destruction of the results of sensitive research proving the harms of smoking. These documents, which were produced in litigation, are required to be made available in a public website.
“These documents reveal that the tobacco industry has been lying to the public about the harmful effects of its products, while simultaneously pushing its addictive and deadly products to the market, and preventing effective tobacco control measures.” shares Irene Reyes, HealthJustice Managing Director in a media briefing sponsored by HealthJustice. “In other countries, litigating against the tobacco industry has not only exposed wrongful conduct, but also provided much-needed resources to implement tobacco control measures”, added Reyes.
In 2005, the Philippines ratified and concurred in the WHO FCTC, a legally binding treaty that provides the foundation for countries to implement and manage tobacco control measures to address the tobacco epidemic.
Article 19 is a powerful provision in the treaty that obliges Parties, including the Philippines, to consider taking legislative action or promoting their existing laws, where necessary, to deal with criminal and civil liability of tobacco companies, including compensation for tobacco victims where appropriate. The WHO FCTC further recognizes in its guiding principles that issues relating to tobacco industry liability complements numerous other tobacco-control measures.
“Public interest litigation allows aggrieved parties to take legal action to enforce existing tobacco control measures, or pursue remedies for industry misconduct. Based on the Philippine experience, however, the tobacco industry has billions to hire the biggest law firms, while the ordinary Filipino has barely enough money to pay for the costs of hospitalization, let alone the costs of filing a case. Thus, we nee more information and guidance on how Parties to the FCTC can effectively use Article 19 to implement tobacco control measures.” notes Atty. Patricia Miranda, one of the volunteer lawyers representing former Department of Health Secretaries in a case for Graphic Health Information pending in the Supreme Court.
The call comes at an opportune time as Parties to the WHO FCTC are meeting in Moscow next month to discuss a global strategy in implementing effective tobacco control measures. HealthJustice is calling on the country’s policymakers to ensure that the protection of the health and welfare of Filipinos, not the business and commercial interests of the tobacco companies, remains at the forefront and the paramount consideration as they discuss life-saving measures at the global conference.