Written by Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco
ANTI-SMOKING advocates are asking Congress to release the truth about the harmful effects of smoking by approving the graphic health warnings bill because its continued inaction on the measure is like “persecuting” Filipinos.
New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) President Emer Rojas said having pictorial warnings on cigarette packs is one of the most effective ways to communicate the health effects of smoking.
In countries where graphic health warnings have been in place since eight years ago like Australia, it was proven that pictures on tobacco packs have a strong emotional impact on smokers and possible initiators, Rojas said.
“A study done in Australia in 2008 showed that majority of smokers and current quitters found graphic health warnings not only ‘believable’ but that their awareness of the vastness of potential health risks from smoking increased. This is the very reason why we want pictures on cigarette packs because if you deprive people of information you are depriving them of their right to health,” Rojas said.
The Australian study, done two years after the country implemented graphic health warnings, showed that more than half of smokers thought of quitting after being exposed to the new cigarette pack labels.
Lawyer Irene Reyes, managing director of the HealthJustice, said picture-based warnings are especially necessary to warn Filipinos who are not able to read or understand the text-only warnings.
“We have seen that 10 years of text-only warnings on the dangers of smoking did not work because of the still high smoking rate [28.3 percent] among Filipino adults. The routine messages on cigarette packs are not effective anymore and not convincing enough to inform smokers about the harms of tobacco. We are confident, as studies show, that graphic health warnings can do better,” Reyes said.
Reyes said legislators should stop delaying the law and allow people to see the true dangers of smoking not only on those who consume tobacco but also among those who inhale their smoke.
“The proposal to impose graphic health warnings have been time and again delayed if not ignored by our legislators. We urge them to enact the law now because public health should never be a second priority especially when 10 Filipinos die every hour because of smoking-related diseases,” she said.
Rojas said civil society would closely monitor developments in both chambers of Congress to make sure that the bill will progress to become a law as soon as possible.
“We have seen the strength of an involved civil society and an informed public during the sin tax deliberations. We are hoping that we would reap the same positive result for the campaign for graphic health warnings,” Rojas also said.