The recent signing of the now Republic Act 10643 or An Act to Effectively Instil Health Consciousness through Graphic Health Warnings on Tobacco Products is a step in the right direction for our country, especially for the youth who are the main beneficiaries of this law.
It took seven years and three congresses before this law became a reality. We congratulate the advocates who remained steadfast to our campaign; the organizations who pushed and shoved against the mounting influence of the tobacco companies, and of course, our champions in both the lower and upper houses of the congress who resisted tobacco companies’ influence. We say THANK YOU!
While we welcome this law, we cannot help but express our concern that the Philippines will be the only country to allow the tobacco companies to have part in implementing graphic health warnings. If we do nothing, the tobacco companies will take advantage of this law and create even more barriers to the development and implementation of life-saving measures.
Under the law, the Inter Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) created under RA 9211, is assigned to monitor implementation of the GHW law. Tobacco companies are members of the IAC-T and have in the past, delayed implementation and challenged tobacco control measures. The law creates an impression that tobacco companies are stakeholders in public health when it is not and should not be according to principles of integrity and good governance, the public health treaty on tobacco, the WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) of the Civil Service Commission and Department of Health to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco companies’ interference.
It is for this reason that health advocates should remain vigilant and prevent the tobacco companies from its known tactics to delay, dilute and defeat tobacco control initiatives.
We call on the President and the Congress to enact measures that would prevent tobacco companies from influencing the graphic health warning law. Aside from strict compliance with the JMC, urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that tobacco companies will not be allowed to interfere during the development of the IRR.
We must keep in mind that any act or decision in favour of the tobacco companies is an act against the Filipino people because when cigarette sales rise, death and diseases do as well.
A picture, they say, tells a thousand stories. We now have the pictures. We also have a thousand more stories to tell about the dangers of allowing tobacco companies to influence policy.