'Stop accepting fund donations from tobacco companies'

Posted at 08/21/14 9:00 AM

MANILA - Health advocates are urging the medical, scientific and academic communities, the government and legislators to stop getting funding from tobacco companies to ensure their credibility and integrity in dealing with issues related to health.

The health advocates who are members of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) made the call in a health forum in Quezon City on Wednesday. They pointed out the interference of the tobacco industry in the policies that Congress makes to control tobacco consumption.

During the forum, Prof. Robert Proctor exposed the strategies of the tobacco industry to continue to lure more people to smoking despite glaring set of evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer way back in 1954.

From allegedly buying the silence of American Medical Association on this scientific study to pursuing a campaign of denials, the tobacco companies shifted to repackaging of cigarettes giving “reassurance” designs in the form of menthol, filters, king-sizes and hard-pack cowboy “masculinization” of their cigarette brands.

Proctor testified as expert witness in over 50 trials against the tobacco industry, and was the first to do so in 1998 when he testified against Philip Morris. He is a professor of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care in the School of Medicine of Stanford University in California.

Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of FCAP cited the interference of Philip Morris lawyers during the deliberation of the sin-tax law in the Senate in 2012.

She said the same tobacco industry interference was made during the Senate plenary deliberation of the recently-enacted Graphic Health Warning bill.

Limpin said the tobacco companies will continue to disregard laws and engage in advertising through mini-billboards, and will continue to sell cigarettes within 100 meters from schools, in violation of the Tobacco Regulation Act.

“They resort to litigation so they can delay or undermine tobacco advertising ban as they did in 2007 when all tobacco companies filed declaratory relief on tobacco advertising ban in Barangay Fortune, Marikina City. We expect them to fund more lawyers to stop the effective implementation of the graphic health warning law,” Limpin said.

PCP President Dr. Anthony Leachon said the PCP will continue to work on regulatory environments to reduce cigarette smoking.

He cited the results of the 2013 National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHeS) that indicated reduction of smokers by 3.2 million on the first year of implementation of the Sin Tax Law and 32,000 deaths potentially averted.

“These are lives saved from among the young and the poor who could not anymore afford the high cost of cigarettes due to higher taxes,” Leachon said.

Erica Davillo, representing the Asian Medical Students Association, also revealed during the forum that tobacco companies tried but failed to decrease the graphic health warning to a mere 30 percent of the packaging of a cigarette pack.

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