Health group reminder: Put new graphic warnings on tobacco packaging

Published March 3, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Analou de Vera

Health advocates reminded the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that the new graphic health warnings (GHW), showing the harmful effects of smoking, should appear on all tobacco packaging.

The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) said that Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warning Law requires all tobacco companies to replace the old templates, which were only valid for two years since its implementation last March 3, 2016.

“There should be no excuse for tobacco companies not to comply with this. We call on the DOH to ensure that all tobacco products carry the new set of warnings and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to ensure that excise tax stamps are affixed only to tobacco products with the new warnings. Violators must be fined or prosecuted,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Seatca’s program director.

Dorotheo said that refreshing the health warnings and messages increases their effectiveness.

“It is important that health warnings and images are changed after a certain period to enhance and maintain the maximum impact over time,” he said.

HealthJustice President Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza,on the other hand, said that as the country is a party under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Philippines is “ought to implement rotating graphic health warnings on all tobacco packaging and labelling.”

The GHW shows people suffering from mouth and throat diseases, premature birth, Emphysema, and many others. The law aims to instill consequences of the excessive use of tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke; to curb and reduce tobacco use especially among the youth, and “to protect public health policy from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry.”

Sellers and retailers who are found selling the non-compliant products will be fined from P10,000 to P100,000 and imprisonment for one year.

Manufactures, importers, and distributors, who fail to display the graphic health warnings will be fined from P500,000 to P2,000,000 and imprisonment to up to five years.