In the news: Tobacco products to carry graphic health warnings starting Nov. 4

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MANILA, Oct. 19 (PNA) – Beginning Nov. 4, all tobacco products being manufactured and imported for sale in the Philippines must contain graphic health warnings in compliance with Republic Act No. 10643.

“This means that cigarette packs must carry graphic health warnings and products with text only warnings are no longer allowed to be sold anywhere in the country,” Emer Rojas, president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) and a throat cancer survivor, said during a press briefing held in Quezon City Wednesday.

Ratified in July 2014, RA 10643 mandates that all tobacco products being sold in the country carry graphic health warnings in the lower portion of the cigarette packs, covering at least 50 percent of both sides of the packages.

A total of 12 templates or images of the actual health effects of smoking, including a photo of Rojas who had stage 4 laryngeal cancer from smoking, have been approved by the Department of Health (DOH) to be used in the packages.

The Graphic Health Warnings (GHW) Law imposes a maximum penalty of PHP2 million or a five-year imprisonment and revocation of business permit against erring manufacturers, exporters and distributors.

“We are hoping that all manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are aware of the deadline for compliance to the law and that none of them will be sending out packs without picture warnings,” Rojas said.

Likewise, Rojas warned ‘sari-sari’ or convenience stores that they too must comply with the GHW law.

He said such stores should stop accepting cigarette packs with no graphic warnings from their suppliers.

Proceeds from fines collected from violators may be used to partially fund health promotion campaigns of the departments of health and education. The law requires the education department to use the graphic health warning templates to teach students about the harmful effects of smoking by incorporating them in relevant subjects under the K-12 curriculum.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) are mandated to monitor the compliance of the tobacco industry.

Data from the Bureau of Internal Revenue showed that as of May 25 this year, all six local manufacturers have already complied with the DOH-prescribed templates.

The World Health Organization recommends graphic health warnings on tobacco products as one of the most effective ways to stop people from smoking.

Ellirie Aviles, president of the youth group Sigaw ng Kabataan Coalition, warned tobacco companies not to target them as replacement customers and vowed to support the law through monitoring on the ground.

“The youth should not be the replacement smokers for the sick and dying customers of the cigarette companies. All government agencies must protect us from tobacco addiction, too. Let us support the implementation of the GHW law. We, the youth, shall monitor its full implementation,” said Aviles.

Anna Marie Kapunan, spokesperson of an association of nurses, likewise aired her concern over the lives lost in exchange for tobacco profits.

“We should prioritize human health over profits and we should not sacrifice human lives over capital and income. It is our fervent hope that all stakeholders respect and obey the provisions of RA 10643,” said Kapunan.

The country reportedly has 17.3 million adult smokers puffing an average of 11 sticks a day.

The GHW law complements the smoke-free Philippines initiatives of President Rodrigo Duterte and of the DOH. –Tobacco products to carry graphic health warnings starting Nov. 4

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